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News & Press: MDE & SBE

Pontiac Middle School Showcases Engineering Design Solution to NASA, U.S. Department of Education

Friday, June 12, 2015  
Posted by: Sandra York
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LANSING – Pontiac Middle School students have the right stuff, winning a national engineering competition by NASA and U.S. Department of Education (USED).

“I’m very proud of the hard work and innovation the students produced,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “Their achievement is indicative of the great learning going on in all Michigan schools.

NASA and USED recognized students from Pontiac Middle School’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program for their innovative game solution in “Spaced Out Sports,” one of six engineering design challenges implemented over an eight-week span. The team gave a virtual presentation about its solution, “Work for Your Candy, Little Einsteins,” to a panel of senior officials from the two agencies last Thursday.

View the presentation here:

Judges’ observed: “The team used NASA scientist and engineer suggestions and revised the game to better reflect a microgravity environment. This was a great game all around. The team provided an excellent playbook, good understanding of Newton’s Laws, and good safety precautions.”

Pontiac Middle School’s solution was selected as part of a competitive process based upon creativity; use of the engineering design process; and student data collection and analysis.

Pontiac Middle School was one of 10 Michigan middle schools selected to participate in the USED's 21st Century Community Learning Centers’ partnership with NASA. The program’s mission is to bring hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM learning opportunities to students during after-school and out-of-school time.

Overall, the number of participating 21st Century Community Learning Center sites rose from about 20 last year to more than 70 this year. Participating states, besides Michigan, include: California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The USED/NASA partnership’ purpose is to inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in STEM disciplines.

NASA introduced student teams to the engineering design process that forms the basis of NASA’s work. To further engage and excite students in STEM, students also had opportunities for live interactions with NASA scientists and engineers, and facilitators were given specialized support including face-to face professional development workshops, webinar trainings sessions and web-based step-by-step instructional guides.

For more information about the Michigan Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Centers, visit:

To learn more about NASA STEM Design Challenges, visit:

For more information about 21st Century Community Learning Centers, visit:

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