3713. Inspiring Future Mass Properties Engineers: NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test and the Office of Stem Engagement


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Anne Weiss, Rosemary L. Smith: 3713. Inspiring Future Mass Properties Engineers: NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test and the Office of Stem Engagement. 2019.



In response to the National Academy of Engineering’s 2004 report, Educating the Engineer of 2020, and two subsequent National Science Foundation research studies examining effective strategies for educating the next generation of engineers, U.S. K-12 general education and undergraduate engineering programs have undergone numerous reforms. Instead of concentrating solely on technical knowledge (e.g., statics, mechanics, fluid dynamics, etc.), formal and informal teachers should now also enhance their instructional practices through interdisciplinary, interactive and immersive experiences that meet students where they are and equip them with 21st-century workforce skills such as collaboration, ability to consider societal and global contexts, and technical writing and public speaking. To support educators’ efforts and NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2 flight test, education specialists in the Langley Research Center’s Office of STEM Engagement partnered with the Flight Test Management and Public Affairs Offices to create a line of instructional products that help teachers and students to make connections between NASA-unique assets, STEM content, and careers in mass properties engineering. Using a mixed-methods research design, this paper documents initial results of that unique, highly collaborative interdisciplinary process: an educator professional development digital badge and a flipped classroom unit with standalone video interview. Although full-scale assessment has yet to occur, preliminary data indicates that responses from students, educators and the public to these resources have been overwhelmingly positive. Future ideas include webinars targeting K-12 teachers as well as virtual-reality technology ‘field trips’ for students – additional tools for achieving the goal of inspiring tomorrow’s mass properties engineers.


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