Engineering for everyone: NASA Armstrong holds educator workshop

NASA photograph by Lauren Hughes

Armstrong education specialist Barbie Buckner (far left) watches workshop participants test a Mars rover they built.

Educators built a Mars rover at a workshop held by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center April 6 at the AERO Institute in Palmdale, Calif.

The Journey to MARS, or Martian Advanced Resources for Survival, workshop presented by Armstrong education specialist Barbie Buckner taught 37 educators from throughout Southern California the engineering design process and showcased NASA’s BEST, or Beginning Engineering Science and Technology, educational activity guides.

The guides supplement classroom curricula and afterschool clubs by providing simple activities that teach students complex science and engineering concepts. Educators used BEST guides and the workshop’s engineering lessons to design, build, evaluate and test drive a Mars rover.

An educator builds a Mars rover at the Journey to MARS workshop.

BEST guides feature activity instructions, material lists, worksheets and educator guidelines. The activities use only household items and common school supplies, making them affordable and accessible. Students can complete an entire activity set or engage in each activity independently of the others.

“I think the most impressive part of the seminar is showing how simple household or school materials can convey such large and encompassing concepts,” said Michele Browning, a science docent from Don Benito Fundamental School in Pasadena, California. “BEST activities make engineering simple and relatable.”

BEST activities level the academic playing field by giving all students confidence with solving engineering challenges, another educator said.