NASA grants launch students into design thinking

Last August, NASA awarded $125,000 across nine organizations, challenging them to bring NASA educational content to students across Ohio. Khalila Thomas directed this project from the NASA Glenn Research Center. After a pilot year with a single school partner, Battelle helped to broaden their reach across Ohio.

“I think it went really well,” Thomas said, “and with Battelle’s help, we were able to expand it to nine organizations.”

Battelle managed an RFP process, leveraging its connections with schools across the state to find a diverse variety of approaches, all incorporating great classroom resources from NASA.

The PAST Foundation worked with Baldwin Road Middle School in Reynoldsburg to foster design thinking. They focused on answering an overarching design question – how can we survive in an uninhabitable or unknown environment? From there, students researched real moons and planets, then simulated their solutions in the real-world.  Students designed, built, evaluated, and modified from idea to product, learning far more than just “the right answer.”

“They’re turning their whole fifth grade hallway into this habitable area for living,” PAST’s Heather Kellert explained, quietly acknowledging that middle school hallways are notoriously inhospitable.

One student tried to persuade her that moon colony life would even be better than Earth, with longer days and nights. “She was like, you can sleep 9 or 10 hours and then stay awake for longer,” Kellert said, “and I was like – girl, you’re convincing me!”

In another project, WOSU worked across Columbus City Schools, coaching K-5 library aides to bring experiential learning into the stacks. By training paraprofessionals in NASA resources and design thinking, they supported the expanding role of libraries in the 21st century.

“WOSU in one month reached almost 1500 students,” Thomas said. “It’s mind-blowing that we were able to do something that had that much of a reach.”

Thomas says that NASA is thinking hard about what’s great for kids in school, and how to prepare them to be the workforce of the future. But it goes beyond just Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

“It’s not going to be all engineers,” said Thomas. “It’s not going to be all scientists, but it’s going to be a lot of people who have a lot of different skills.”

As the program moves forward, we’ll be sure to keep OSLN readers in the about more opportunities from NASA.


2 Responses to “NASA grants launch students into design thinking”

  1. Natalia Mintchik says:

    Dear Sir or Madam,
    I am writing to you on behalf of the Walnut Hills Robotics team, where my daughter is a member. Walnut Hills Robotics team is looking for the sponsors to support it in the incoming 2018-2019 Robotics competition. As you probably know, Walnut Hills High School is one of the best public school in Ohio with a very diverse student body. Parents contribute funds into transportation, food, and hotel stays. However, the team needs funds to buy the parts to make Robots and to pay the tournament registration fees that run from several hundreds to several thousand dollars.
    This is the first time my daughter participates in this team (she is the 9-th grader) but students in the prior years managed to move up to the World Competition level. We are looking for the sponsors to make the dreams of my daughter and girls like her to become true! Walnut Hills also hosts the regional competition on its premises, which is mostly facilitated by the parents from the Robotics team. So, team sponsors will get a lot of visibility through opportunity to put their names on Banners, robots, etc. We are also open to any other suggestions from our sponsors to deliver more value and visibility for their donations that could be as small as several hundred dollars.
    If your organization could contribute or to provide us with some leads on the potential sponsors, this will be greatly appreciated. Last year more than 44,000 visitors attended the World competition alone. So, this is the great opportunity for the sponsors to make their organization known to a very focused group of aspiring “engineering geeks”.
    The kids on the team have prepared the presentation on their past achievements and future aspirations and will be excited to share it with the potential sponsors.
    I am looking forward to your response. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
    Sincerely, Natalia.
    P.S. More information about the team is available here:

    • OSLN Admin says:

      Hi Natalia:

      Unfortunately we do not have any existing programs to fund student robotics competitions. However, we are happy to share social media posts on Twitter by the students. Please simply tag @OSLN in your tweet.

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