WASHINGTON, May 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA has unveiled plans for its 2013 Summer of Innovation project, which challenges middle school students across the United States to share in the excitement of scientific discovery and space exploration through unique, NASA-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities.
Summer of Innovation leverages the expertise and reach of NASA's 10 field centers, national academic and industry partners and smaller, non-traditional collaborators to keep students engaged in STEM activities during the summer school break.
NASA's facilities and partner organizations will host family activity days, opportunities for students to talk with NASA experts, and summer day camps. Students attending the day camps will design and construct their own rockets, build water filtration systems, learn to become as fit as an astronaut, and participate in NASA hands-on activities.
Information about NASA opportunities during the 2013 Summer of Innovation is available at:
The main focus will be on the Exploration Design Challenge, a NASA and industry STEM initiative announced in March. Exploration Design Challenge components will be woven into many Summer of Innovation offerings. Interested students, parents and teachers also may participate in the challenge without taking part in Summer of Innovation.
"The Exploration Design Challenge is an amazing opportunity for students in kindergarten through 12th grade and is a fun way to keep a STEM focus this summer," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for education in Washington. "For the middle school set, we have an opportunity for them to learn about space radiation and how it can affect astronauts traveling to deep space. They then will design and develop a radiation shield prototype to mitigate these risks. After successfully completing these activities, the students may submit their names to be flown to space aboard the Orion spaceflight test next year."
National partners selected previously will continue STEM efforts begun during Summer of Innovation sessions in 2011 and 2012, predominantly through summer camps that use NASA-themed curricula and hands-on activities that present academic challenges.
NASA also will engage and leverage the STEM expertise of other national organizations, such as the Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCAs, 4-H chapters, science centers and museums.
The agency will offer Summer of Innovation mini-grant awards of as much as $2,500 to allow smaller, non-traditional organizations to spur STEM interest in their communities. The agency will begin soliciting proposals in early June.
NASA piloted Summer of Innovation in 2010 in response to President Obama's Educate to Innovate initiative. Studies have shown that students who are engaged in STEM activities during their middle school years are more likely to pursue the scientific and technical career fields critical to maintaining U.S. competitiveness in the future.
Entering its fourth year, Summer of Innovation has reached more than 128,000 students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It has provided professional development opportunities to more than 16,000 educators.
For more information about the Exploration Design Challenge, visit:
For more information about NASA's broader education programs, visit: