NASA tries space kits to engage kids in science and space

Thu Apr 24, 2014 2:12pm EDT
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By Sarah McBride

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Making mini satellite dishes that collect signals or building remote-controlled mini Rovers such as the kind NASA has used on Mars are the types of activities that could interest kids in science, but their complexity can derail all but the most enthusiastic hobbyist.

Now, NASA, the U.S. space agency, hopes it has found a workaround through new space kits and a collaboration with a New York-based startup called LittleBits.

NASA, through its Aura mission to study the Earth's ozone layer and climate, is working with LittleBits to develop activities around a new $189 space kit, announced on Thursday.

Using electronic modules such as motors and dimmers that snap together, the creations will perform functions that normally might require hours of tedious tinkering or piles of electronics components.

The new kits are more demanding than playing with snappable blocks like Legos, but far easier than wiring, soldering or programming.

"You don't have that frustration level," said Steve Heck, a 5th and 6th grade math and science teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Ohio who says too many students lose interest in science and space experiments when the projects become too difficult.

"You're going to get a much better student in the long run."

For NASA, the partnership has a more specific goal.   Continued...

LittleBits chief executive and founder, Ayah Bdeir, poses at her company's headquarters in New York April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid