Friday, March 18, 2011

This is the good part...

During most of the month of March, my work with INSGC has been filled with struggle and challenge and effort.  We're still trying to determine what Congress' will for NASA will be for FY 2011, and what the NASA Office of Education will emphasize in our program requirements for the next project year (starting in May 2011).  We've been bombarded with requests to support summer interns at NASA Centers (I'm aware of five Centers at last count), and I know we won't be able to fund them all.  But, sometimes it's a good day, and today has been one of those good days.

Our plans for the INSGC Affiliate Meeting and Outreach / Partnership Engagement for Tuesday, April 12 are coming together well.  I was able to meet with a couple of industry representatives who hope to send folks to the meeting.  Partnerships for STEM education, engagement, and outreach are usually a good way to connect to folks; two IMAX movies and posters on the 50th Anniversary of the first human in space and 30th Anniversary of the first Space Shuttle flight are good, too.  We're continuing to put together a strong program for our Affiliates, Partners, and potential partners.

An even better part of today was the chance I had to attend the FIRST Robotics Boilermaker Regional competition here on the Purdue campus.  Remember, it's March in Indiana, and the Purdue men's and women's basketball teams are playing NCAA tournament games this weekend.  Despite this, hundreds of high school students and over a dozen Purdue students were having a great time doing... robots.  Cool robots.  Robots hanging shaped inflatable objects representing the FIRST logo.  Robots climbing poles.  Every robot is different, and every robot reflects the imagination and dedication and commitment of teams of students and mentors to take an idea, and build it, and get to to work, and get maybe a couple vanloads of your fans to cheer for you.

Unlike other Space Grants, INSGC does not provide support for individual teams.  We support the regional competition itself.  The Boilermaker Regional was actually the doing of a group of Purdue University students who wanted to get involved in robotics, and helping out high school students.  Many of these Purdue students had been involved in FIRST at their high schools, so they developed a student organization (Purdue FIRST Programs) to support multiple teams.  They started asking for INSGC support a few years ago, and then put together an application to the National FIRST leadership to host a high school regional competition here each March (and Lego League activities for the younger students in the Fall).  This sort of dedication demonstrates a number of the principles of FIRST--technical excellence, professional dedication, mentoring, and teamwork.  So, given a choice, it seems obvious that INSGC work to support this level of effort for what has become one of the more popular FIRST regional competitions--not just for teams around Indiana, but folks from Alabama, California, and Puerto Rico who want to visit Purdue and get excited about engineering.  Thus, no matter who wins or loses, we all have a good day, and I am extremely pleased that INSGC gets to be a part of it.

There is another extremely cool piece of news, but I can't tell you just yet.  When you hear it, you'll be as thrilled as I am.  Here's one hint.  Two Indiana astronaut hometowns will have something else to be excited about regarding spaceflight, and like FIRST, it will be the K-12 students and teachers themselves who are the true heroes.

Have a good weekend, as we move towards the Full Moon tomorrow, and the Equinox next week.  Spring couldn't be here too soon.

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