20th annual Young Astronaut Day at NASA Glenn Research Center

An invitation to a NASA facility? Consider my RSVP to be “YES!” almost 100% of the time. Any chance I get to visit NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center, you can consider this right-brained gal to be interested, especially when it’s for a fun, educational event.

Hans and I attended last year’s Young Astronaut Day, an opportunity for local school kids to visit Cleveland’s NASA facility for a day of science experiments and learning. I was quite excited to learn the annual event would be held for the twenty time this year and that we were invited to come back to help out.

Social media FTW: follow @YADNASA on Twitter.

The day started off with remarks from the YAD2012 organizers and NASA staff, including my favorite astronaut, Greg Johnson.

Greg’s (AKA @Astro_Box to those on Twitter) time at NASA Glenn is coming to a close, so we were especially grateful to see him one more time. Hans always enjoys questioning him about space – as much as Greg loves questioning me about social media!

Then we were on to the experiments, which included:

  • In-Space Repair Challenge
  • Parachute Challenge
  • Don’t Lose Your Marbles!
  • Stomp Rockets
  • Mission to Mars Remote Detection
  • Mission to Mars Lander
  • Mission to Mars Rover
  • Mission to Mars Tower

Each school would assign students to work on one of the above projects. The “Commanders” (the higher level grade students) worked on four projects that together simulated a “Mission to Mars”.

Hans was asked to lead the charge on the Mars Lander station, where the older students were challenged to build a Mars Lander that hold up in a mock Mars landing. Luckily for Hans, our staff team included Tyler and Vic – both were much more helpful than I in answering the kids’ questions! Each school’s lander team was given a set amount of supplies to build a lander that would keep their astronauts (AKA two marshmallows) in their capsule (AKA paper cup).

The students were allowed to test their lander as many times as they’d like to at their tables, but were only given a limited amount of drops in a certain amount of time in order to qualify for a score for the activity. They had the opportunity to choose between landing in two areas: one without wind resistance and the other with high winds (thanks to the doors to the hangar being open and the placement of our station – I had my coat on the entire event!)  The lander that landed safely from the highest point won the most points.

As the afternoon went on, the teams were eager to test their landers:


Some teams really tested the limits of our tape measure!

A few teams built landers so sturdy that we had to find step ladders to use in order to see how high they could go while safely landing their “astronauts” to the ground. Overall, the students were quite successful!

While each team worked on their individual experiments, students helped to build this awesome mock up of the Mars rover:

The Young Astronaut Day participants were encouraged to bring canned goods to the event for the Canstruction activity. All of those cans were donated to the Foodbank after the event.

It was another great day at NASA Glenn filled with plenty of experiments, eager students, knowledgable staff and a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone on the Young Astronaut Day planning committee and NASA Glenn for allowing me to help out at this annual event! Check out all my photos from YAD2012 by visiting the PIP Facebook page.

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