Van Allen Probes

Mission Name:
Van Allen Probes Education and Public Outreach (E/PO)


Project Description:
The Van Allen Probes E/PO program strives to excite and inspire the next generation of explorers by creating hands-on, minds-on STEM learning experiences for students, educators and the general public. It provides training and materials for educators and using an evidence-based best practice approach, enables teachers to enhance their classroom activities, creates opportunities that directly engage students, and implements events and programs for members of the general public. Additionally, the Van Allen Probes E/PO program makes a contribution to the nation’s scientific and technical literacy, aligning the materials created specifically for this mission with current national education efforts and standards. 



The Van Allen Probes E/PO program:

  1. includes collaboration with leading E/PO professionals;
  2. ensures compliance with national standards;
  3. provides product and activity evaluation;
  4. guarantees effective implementation; and
  5. creates relationships reaching all ages and education levels in the STEM pipeline.

The E/PO program follows both National Science Education Standards (NSES) [NRC, 1996] and NASA Implementation Strategy [NASA, 1996], and works closely with NASA’s SMD E/PO framework and infrastructure, specifically the NASA SMD E/PO Heliophysics Forum.

Van Allen Probes provides unique opportunities for students, educators, museums, science centers and the general public to share in the excitement of NASA’s mission to explore the extremes of space weather. The overarching goal of the E/PO program is to generate excitement and awareness about the mission, showing how the Van Allen Belts and Space Weather directly impact our modern way of life; engaging, and inspiring the public to want to know more and perhaps join in the mission’s search for answers to the dramatic and puzzling aspects of the Earth’s radiation belts.

The overall Van Allen Probes Mission Key Messages are central to the E/PO message:

  1. Van Allen Probes advances our understanding of the dramatic and puzzling aspects of Earth’s radiation belts. The “Van Allen Radiation Belts,” named for their discoverer James Van Allen, are two donut-shaped regions encircling the Earth, where high energy particles from the Sun and space are trapped by our planet’s magnetic field.
  2. Van Allen Probes enables the prediction of extreme & dynamic space conditions. Changes in the Sun’s energy flow cause changes in space. These changes are referred to as space weather and have broad impacts on Earth’s systems and inhabitants.
  3. Van Allen Probes provides understanding needed to design satellites to survive in space. Van Allen Probes will explore space weather especially its extreme conditions, which can disable satellites, cause power grid failures, and disrupt GPS services.



As part of NASA’s education efforts, all of the Space Department E/PO programs are designed to be aligned with NASA’s Education Portfolio Strategic Framework. The overarching RBSP E/PO program strives to inspire, educate, engage and employ the nation’s next generation of explorers through providing inspiring programming for people all along the STEM pipeline. 



Van Allen Probes has a K-12 formal education component as well as informal and public outreach programs. Each program is mapped to an outcome within NASA’s Education Portfolio Framework- a pathway to Inspire, Educate, Engage, and Employ. Content is aligned to the identified customer need as identified, planned and detailed in advance. Van Allen Probes E/PO programs align formal education materials with national science education standards and map to the NASA Education Strategic Framework. Through this evidence based best practices approach to STEM education and outreach Van Allen Probes contributes to the nation’s scientific and technical literacy.


Lead Institution:
Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University


Partnerships:

  • NASA’s SDO, THEMIS/ARTEMIS, IBEX, Voyager, MMS, TIMED, AIM, Cluster and RHESSI missions (Heliophysics Educator Ambassador program)
  • Discovery Education Network partners (Space Academy series in Maryland)
  • HBCUs, University of Maryland, Eastern Shore and Howard University (plan and implement the Pre-Service Teacher Workshop “Science Across Curriculum”)
  • Maryland State Department of Education, NASA Space Grant Consortium (Maryland Summer Center for Space Science)
  • Maryland Science Center (local and regional NASA-themed educational activities and exhibits, as well as providing training for informal educators)
  • NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center (exhibits and live programs, 16,000 members of public reached during launch week.)
  • Brevard County, Florida Public Schools and Kennedy Space Center (2560 students and educators reached by Van Allen Probes scientists and engineers)
  • Goddard Space Flight Center (informal STEM career and NASA science education resources and tools)
  • Robinson Nature Center (science lecture series including talks by Van Allen Probes scientist)
  • Howard Community College, Brevard County Community College (scientists communicating mission related STEM topics to students, faculty and the public.
)
  • Montana State University-Bozeman (MSU) Department of Physics (develop classroom-ready learning modules exploring concepts relevant to Earth’s radiation belts, geomagnetic storms, and the dynamic solar wind interaction) 


  • Space Math @ NASA (Van Allen Probes mathematics lessons)
  • National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park (hosting public program summer series talks with Van Allen Probes Instrument PI, Harlan Spence)


Metrics:

  • 36 primary/secondary pre-service teachers attended an April 2013 workshop; primary teachers will instruct in all subject areas, secondary teachers will become both STEM and non-STEM content specialists
    • 5,296 students and 225 colleagues are the total numbers of individuals these pre-service teachers anticipated eventually exposing to NASA-related activities
  • 50 community college students and a few faculty attended a February 2013 lecture, 25 completed a post-workshop questionnaire
  • 97 students participated in the October 2012 Space Academy event;
  • 2560+ have been involved in formal education activities involving Kennedy Space Center
  • 16,000+ have been involved in public outreach efforts involving Kennedy Space Center, including exhibits; scientists’ talks to public about Van Allen Probes; Museum Alliance pre-launch training; public lecture at FL planetarium; guest briefings by program/project leads
  • Over 700 girls attended the Girl Power event in 2012—up from 300 in 2008, 400 in 2009 and 450-500 in 2010 and 2011
  • 1,200 students participated in the Bradbury Science Museum's Science on Wheels "Solar Weather" program during Spring 2013. Program staff discussed the solar wind and the Van Allen radiation belts.

Mission-related products were provided throughout FY12 to support K-12 students and educators, undergraduate students and faculty, scouting, science centers, events, workshops, and conferences. More than 4,000 Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission products (the mission was later renamed Van Allen Probes) were disseminated during launch activities at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center. In addition, educational mission material for the estimated 18,000 teachers, students, scouts, families was shipped to KSC for use by KSC educators and the Education Resource Center.


Effectiveness and Impact:
Van Allen Probes Teachers Workshop: A 2-day workshop providing educators training on the Van Allen Probes mission and related STEM topics. 
Outcomes:

  •  

  • 31 STEM educators attended the August 2012 workshop
  • Pre-post retrospective, 5-point rating scale questions indicated a mean increase of 2.3 points for ‘understanding’ of and 2.4 points for ‘interest’ in the general workshop content, the Van Allen Probes mission and its science

  • Those surveyed indicated they were ‘extremely likely’ (4.7 on a 5-point scale) to present Van Allen Probes-related topics to their students and fellow educators; they also indicated they felt ‘well prepared’ (4.4) to do so

  • 6,033 students and 539 colleagues represent the total numbers of individuals these educators anticipated reaching in a typical year

  • 50% of the educators took part in a subsequent telecom: another 32% voluntarily emailed the workshop leaders reporting on continued involvement (conducting workshops, participating in events and developing curriculum); 86% reported they were willing to take part in a pilot test of Van Allen Probes activities



Heliophysics Educator Ambassadors Presentation
: 
A partnership with NASA missions to train/support educators in becoming Heliophysics Educator Ambassadors by providing resources and information during annual workshops.
 Outcomes:


  • 8 middle/high school science educators attended the June 2012 Van Allen Probes presentation at the HEA Reunion Workshop in Chicago

  • Pre-post retrospective questions indicated a mean increase of 1.7 rating scale points (on a 5-point scale) with regard to respondents’ ‘understanding’ of the Van Allen Probes mission and its science

  • 4.4 is the mean rating these educators gave with regard to their ‘likelihood of using’ Van Allen Probes content to instruct their students and share with colleagues
  • These educators anticipated reaching in a typical year 620 students and 147 colleagues
  • One Heliophysics Educator Ambassador conducted a workshop for 17 fellow educators who anticipated sharing Van Allen Probes materials with an additional 73 colleagues and 2,170 students

Pre-service Teachers Heliophysics Workshop
: A partnership with HBCUs in the DC area to recruit pre-service teachers who are underrepresented in STEM fields. Participants attend a workshop entitled “STEM Across the Curriculum” with the goal of integrating NASA information into non-STEM related classes.
 Outcomes:

  • 36 primary/secondary pre-service teachers attended the April 2013 workshop; primary teachers will instruct in all subject areas, secondary teachers will become both STEM and non-STEM content specialists

  • 97% of respondents were minorities in science, predominantly women

  • 5,296 students and 225 colleagues are the total numbers of individuals these pre-service teachers anticipated eventually exposing to NASA-related activities

  • There were requests to extend the workshop into 2 days


Howard County Community College Lecture
: This 1-hour lecture about the exploration of the Van Allen radiation belts was given at a Maryland community college.
 Outcomes:


  • 50 community college students and a few faculty attended the February 2013 lecture, 25 completed a post-workshop questionnaire
  • 72% of respondents were minorities in science, predominantly women, majoring in STEM-related fields or education

  • Pre-post retrospective questions indicated a mean increase of 1.9 rating scale points (on a 5-point scale) with regard to respondents’ ‘understanding’ of the importance of the Van Allen Probes mission and the content of the lecture

  • Those surveyed indicated a great deal of ‘interest’ (a mean of 4.2 on a 5-point scale) in the Van Allen Probes mission and related topics

  • “Who knew that Van Allen Belts as a topic for a presentation would be exciting and interesting…I was pleased to see a number of Astronomy and Earth and Space Science students also become interested...”



Space Academy Events
: Space Academy is a day-long, close-up look at NASA’s missions. Its goal is to attract, engage, inspire and influence the perceptions of middle school, underserved students about space science and STEM careers.
 Outcomes:


  • 97 students participated in the October 2012 event; 81 student surveys were returned

  • 65% of the students attending were minorities in science, boys who were neither Caucasian nor Asian and girls

  • Students indicated they were interested in learning more about space science (a mean of 2.9 on a 4-point scale) and want to have careers using STEM (2.9)

NASA/APL Undergraduate Internships
: A NASA/APL partnership offering research internship for undergraduates drawn competitively from a nationwide applicant pool. 
Outcomes:

  • 19 interns worked on Van Allen Probes projects from 2007 to 2012; follow-up data were obtained from 13 and end-of-internship data from 3

  • All of the follow-up survey respondents hold degrees in STEM, primarily in aerospace engineering, aeronautics/astronautics and computer science; all of their most recent jobs are in STEM fields

  • All respondents would chose to become NASA/APL interns again and all would recommend the NASA/APL Internship program to fellow students


INFORMAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS


Partnerships with NASA-KSC Visitor Center
: A partnership with KSC Visitor Center included exhibits, materials, and live events for educators and visitor center guests.
 Outcomes:


  • 2560+ have been involved in formal education activities involving KSC; these include the pre-launch educator workshop; DLN presentations to classrooms held from KSC; scientists’ visits to FL classrooms; the INSPIRE Un-Conference and KSC’s Educator Resource Center providing materials to educators

  • 16,000+ have been involved in public outreach efforts involving KSC, including exhibits; scientists’ talks to public about Van Allen Probes; Museum Alliance pre-launch training; public lecture at FL planetarium; guest briefings by program/project leads

Museum Alliance
: A partnership with the Museum Alliance to provide mission information and materials so they may conduct their own events/workshops at museums, science centers and planetariums. 
Outcomes:


  • 51 formal/informal educators participated in webinars in 2012; only 2 completed a voluntary survey

  • 2,080 is the total number of individuals these two respondents anticipated reaching in a typical year

  • Respondents indicated they were ‘quite likely’ to present Van Allen Probes materials to their students and to share them with fellow educators; they also reported feeling ‘quite comfortable’ with the prospect of doing these presentations

PUBLIC OUTREACH ENDEAVORS
E/PO Training for Scientists, Engineers and Project Management
: Workshops designed to assist mission scientists and engineers be successful in EPO. Topics include best practices for communicating topics effectively to various audiences and national science standards.
 Outcomes:


  • Approximately 76 Van Allen Probes scientists and engineers have attended E/PO workshops; 36 took part in the February 2013 workshop and completed questionnaires

  • 50% of those surveyed had been involved in outreach activities for any mission, while close to 40% had participated in education and outreach events related to the Van Allen Probes Launch

  • These scientists and engineers estimated they reached 3,550 individuals during the launch period 



Girl Power Event at APL
 Background:
 An annual event designed to inspire middle and high school girls to pursue STEM careers. 
Outcomes:


  • Over 700 girls attended event in 2012—up from 300 in 2008, 400 in 2009 and 450-500 in 2010 and 2011; 101 completed a survey
  • 76% of attendees surveyed in 2012 agreed that the event encouraged them to pursue STEM educational and career goals

  • 78% of the respondents agreed that they discovered a new STEM career during the event
  • 
Those surveyed reported interest in the STEM disciplines of chemistry, engineering, biology, computer science and space science



Mission Web Site: The Van Allen Probes web site is a radiation belt mission ‘one-stop shop’ featuring the latest mission news and educational resources.
 Outcomes:


  • 26,532 visits to web site since October 2012 with 24% occurring in December 2012—a visit is the action of a uniquely defined individual looking at any number of web pages within a session

  • 50,976 is the number of times the site has been viewed—a view is the total number of web pages browsed during a visit

  • 78% of people visiting site were first-time users—new visitors are quintessential to the expansion of the webpage’s reach and follower acquisition

  • 1.9 is the average number of pages visited per session by Van Allen Probes readers; they spend an average of 1 ½ minutes per page

  • 40% is the strong bounce rate for the ‘Education’ part of the web site, while 73% is the bounce rate for the entire site—bounce rate is a percentage metric that measures how many people visit a page and leave it without clicking anything



Audience quotes:
“I came into this workshop not having any interest in Science and left loving it. I grew up hating science honestly. I didn’t understand it…Now, I am so interested…I feel well informed and equipped to share this information with my middle schoolers and early childhood kids.”



“Who knew that Van Allen Belts as a topic for a presentation would be exciting and interesting…I was pleased to see a number of Astronomy and Earth and Space Science students also become interested...”

“This internship has definitely helped to steer me in the right direction…by allowing me to expand on my computer science knowledge… and gain more experience within the field that I can’t really get from my mechanical engineering major. …I would definitely be interested in coming back and hopefully working in a mechanical engineering related type of field.”



"This Spring we featured a program called Solar Weather in our Science On Wheels program. We took it to 10 or 12 schools and saw probably 1,200 students with whom we discussed the solar wind and Van Allen radiation belts. It was a lot of fun and we pulled out our Van de Graaff generator at the end to leave the kids, and many of their teachers, charged up about plasmas. The materials and information we received last year at the APL have proved indispensable in our teaching."