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Alligators in space: NASA selects game created by Kinser Elementary School students for International Space Station

For Immediate Release — April 7, 2011 | Pacific
: | DSN: 634-1204


OKINAWA, Japan (undated) 5th grade Students from Kinser Elementary School learn the importance of center of gravity in sports.  (DoDEA Photo//Released)

OKINAWA, JAPAN — April 7, 2011 — A fifth-grade class at Kinser Elementary School placed second in a nationwide competition organized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. According to a NASA press release, the challenge is part of a broader NASA education effort to engage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities.

The game-design challenge dubbed “Spaced Out Sports Design Challenge” was geared toward students in grades 5-8. The Kinser team, led by a Fifth Grade Teacher worked together to develop the game for astronauts on the International Space Station by applying Sir Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion and the effects of forces on an object . Students watched videos of NASA scientists and engineers explaining Newton’s Laws and had to design around the differences between everyday earth gravity and the microgravity environment of a space station.

Teachers were provided a curriculum guide by NASA, which included "Talk Shows," to guide instruction and exploration of scientific principles through hands-on activities. Experiments provided students additional opportunities to create games that demonstrated an understanding of the lessons provided.

As a final project, each student in the class created a game using only approved materials for astronauts to play aboard the ISS. A peer review style process was used for final selection at Kinser ES. Each student gave formal presentations to the class and votes were cast to determine the favorite concept.  After several rounds of voting, "Alligator Clip Capture" came out on top.
With permission from the student who created the game, students opted to change a few aspects of the game including modified scoring rules and the addition of penalties.  For their final submission to NASA, the class worked together to create a digital playbook and video describing how to build and play the game. They submitted their final product and waited for word.

The teacher described the special moment when word finally came, “I invited his parents in for the call and [his] mom was welled up with pride” she said, “his last day was today, but it was such an amazing end to his family’s tour on Okinawa.”

The achievement is particularly timely according to NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin, "I am especially pleased to note that one of the winning teams is from a DoDEA school. April is the Month of the Military Child, and NASA is kicking off a new initiative to engage military families in our education programs." NASA will kick off their Military Families Initiative at an education summit later this month according to the NASA press release.

Classmates were amazed at the news said, “The students were beside themselves and so excited about what they were able to accomplish as a team.” With their second-place finish, the game design created by the student and his teammates will be sent to astronauts aboard the ISS via the student-created playbook and video. ISS personnel will need to learn the rules of “Alligator Clip Capture” quickly as a recording will be made of their actual game play for students to view in the future.

“This is such an innovative way to build early enthusiasm for science with our students,” said DoDEA Pacific Director Diana Ohman. DoDEA Pacific Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Dr. Joyce Lutrey agreed, “What an excellent example of learning experiences that offer rigor, challenge students, and make learning relevant.”

About the Spaced Out Sports Design Challenge
“Spaced Out Sports” is a national student design challenge geared toward grades 5-8. The purpose is for students to apply Newton’s Laws of Motion by designing or redesigning a game for International Space Station (ISS) astronauts to play in space. As students design a new sport, they will learn about Newton’s Laws of Motion and the effect of gravity on an object. They will learn to predict the difference between a game or activity played on Earth and in the microgravity environment of the ISS.


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