McREL to help expand online educational programs for NASA’s CosmoQuest

March 9, 2016

DENVER – McREL International is among ten collaborating institutions that will work over the next five years to expand and enhance public education and outreach efforts for NASA’s CosmoQuest Virtual Research Facility.

Launched in 2012, CosmoQuest.org is designed to provide students, teachers, and the public with an experience online that is similar to experiences available at traditional brick-and-mortar research centers. The “citizen science” site includes science projects like MoonMappers, which invites the public to help map craters and other features of the moon, plus online classes, seminars, and teacher materials.

Funded by an $11.5 million award from NASA, the new collaboration will bring together scientists, educators, and software developers to create new educational and outreach programs, online professional learning communities for teachers, and additional citizen science project opportunities.

“With this funding, CosmoQuest will be able to grow from a seedling full of potential into a mighty tree that supports science and learning opportunities,” said the project’s principal investigator, Dr. Pamela Gay of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). “We are bringing in new partners with added expertise, and we couldn’t be prouder of this team.”

In addition to SIUE, partners include teams from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, InsightSTEM, Interface Guru, Lawrence Hall of Science, Johnson Space Center, McREL International, the Planetary Science Institute, McDonald Observatory, and Youngstown State University.

SIUE will develop educational activities and CosmoQuest’s software, including that which enables the public to help NASA make new discoveries. To date, CosmoQuest programs have helped NASA’s New Horizons team find Kuiper Belt objects and have helped researchers map features of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Vesta. Future programs, which will expand beyond planetary science, include a partnership with the University of Texas to explore dark energy, and with Johnson Space Center to help earth scientists more effectively use astronaut images to study our changing planet.

McREL’s consultants will work with educators to integrate CosmoQuest activities into the classroom and help deepen their practice through a CosmoQuest professional learning community highlighting space and earth sciences. In addition, McREL’s research and evaluation team will conduct rigorous internal evaluation of CosmoQuest initiatives to ensure the project is reaching its goal of making impactful innovations.

“We’re working with a network of amazing educational professionals who can support teachers bringing authentic science into their classrooms,” said SIUE researcher Georgia Bracey. “We’re working to build a lasting community for teachers, including an online home where they can get help and share their own lessons learned.”

To learn more, please visit CosmoQuest.org.

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