ROADS on Mars / ROADS Freestyle — News for teams (April 10, 2020)

“Meet an Expert” series

Earlier this week we had an amazing Zoom session with astronaut Fred Haise of the Apollo 13 crew.  And next week our “Meet an Expert” series will feature another planetary protection expert.

Fred Haise — Now up on YouTube

We’ve posted the video from our Zoom chat with Fred Haise to our YouTube channel.  If you’ve missed any of our past “Meet an Expert” sessions, you can also catch up on them there.

“Meet an Expert” — André Galli

For our next “Meet an Expert” chat, André Galli from the University of Bern in Switzerland will join us to delve more into planetary protection!  Students will have time for Q&A with André after his presentation.


ROADS Freestyle — Submission date extended!

We’ve extended the submission date for the ROADS Free Challenge.  Freestyle teams now have up to May 18 to get their submissions to us.

Haven’t signed up for the Freestyle challenge yet?  There’s also still plenty of time to register.  Details on the challenge are at:

ROADS on Mars / ROADS Freestyle — News for teams (March 31, 2020)

ROADS Freestyle Challenge

If your Mars skills feel like they’re going dull with so many activities suspended right now, we have great news for you!  We’ve launched a new challenge that any team can do even while observing “safer-at-home” policies in place for coronavirus.  It’s called ROADS on Mars Freestyle Challenge and registration is now open!

About the Freestyle challenge

  • Roughly follows the objectives of the original ROADS on Mars challenge, but only uses items your team members in their homes.
  • Still a team activity (not a solo adventure!), so one of the challenges is to devise how your team will work together while also staying safe under “stay-at-home” policies.
  • Is a completely separate challenge from the original ROADS on Mars — which, yes, means your team’s progress on ROADS doesn’t really count toward Freestyle.  However….
  • Is open to all K–12 students in the U.S. whether or not they registered for the original ROADS.  So if you didn’t get to register for ROADS, now is your chance to sign up for a Mars mission!  (And if you did sign up for the original ROADS, this is a nice opportunity for your team to keep working together toward Mars.)


  • Top prize is a trip to a NASA center!  (Date to be determined, of course.)
  • “Best in Mission Objective” prize for most of the Mission Objectives.


  • Register by:  Monday, April 13
  • Submit your team’s mission documentation by:  Monday, April 27
  • Freestyle website

In particular, please review the details — and download a copy of the Mission Objectives document — on the Freestyle Details page!  And if you have any questions, please email us:

Cool things to watch online

Our most recent “Meet an Expert” Zoom chat was last week — if you missed it, it’s now up on our website and YouTube.  We also have another one coming up next week, plus a recommendation for some lectures from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  We know that joining a webinar can be tough right now, not least because everyone else is clogging up the internet trying to do the same thing, but if you’re able to tune into any of these, we think you’ll find them useful.

Upcoming “Meet an Expert”

We are SO excited that our next expert chat will be with none other than Fred Haise, one of the Apollo 13 astronauts!  We really hope you’ll join us for this one!

Last week’s “Meet an Expert”

On March 26 we chatted with John Rummel, a senior scientist at the SETI Institute, about “planetary protection” — aka, keeping Earth (and other solar system bodies) safe from microbes.  If you missed it, you can view the archived video on our website.

Lecture webcasts from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

JPL has some pretty cool talks coming up as part of their von Kármán Lecture Series, and they’ve taken them online.  Check these out if you can!

ROADS on Mars — News for teams (March 24, 2020)

G’day, ROADS on Mars teams!

Meet an expert

We hope you can join us this Thursday, March 26, for another of our “Meet an Expert” chats! John Rummel, a senior scientist at the SETI Institute, will join us for an hour to talk on a subject that may sound very familiar right now — planetary protection. How do we keep Earth from getting contaminated by microbes from space? How do we protect other bodies in the solar system (Mars, for example!) from becoming contaminated by organisms from Earth? When the Apollo 11 astronauts returned from that first mission to the moon, they were quarantined for nearly a month in a special Airstream trailer. What does planetary protection look like in our modern era? John’s talk will cover the rationale for planetary protection considerations and its implementation during interplanetary journeys.


Important ROADS announcement coming Thursday!

The ROADS on Mars challenge may be indefinitely suspended — but you don’t have to step off the ROAD(s) just yet. NESSP has been brainstorming ideas on how we can continue working on our mission even while we’re grounded, and on Thursday we’ll have an exciting announcement on our new, ROADS-related project. Join us for our “Meet an Expert” chat to get all the details. Or, if you can’t join us on Zoom, check out our website Thursday afternoon (Pacific Time) for details to go live.

NESSP suspends in-person activities until further notice

As you are all aware, the coronavirus outbreak has been declared a pandemic and schools are being closed nationwide.

ROADS on Mars Student Challenge

We do not want students attempting to complete the challenge and running the risk of being infected. Therefore, to ensure everyone’s safety we are indefinitely suspending the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. Your efforts will not have been in vain as we WILL restart the program once an all clear is given to health authorities — we will keep the objectives unchanged and there will still be the funded trips to a NASA Center.

We also plan on having a few additional science matter expert talks, so please stay tuned! We will announce upcoming online activities — and the restart of the challenge — as details are available.

Educator summit

We are cancelling our educator summit, planned for June 2020 in Seattle, with the hope that we may be able to reschedule for later in the summer.

Summer 2020 camps

We are putting NESSP summer camps for 2020 on hold until further notice.

ROADS on Mars — News for teams (March 13, 2020)

Even though our challenge events are suspended indefinitely, that doesn’t mean the road has come to an end. We’ll be continuing with our virtual “Meet a NASA Expert” chats, so keep your Zoom app at the ready. We’ll also be sending more ROADS newsletters in the coming weeks so that we can all continue to collaborate on this mission even while we’re grounded.

We’ve very happy to announce that our next expert chat will happen on March 24. Join us to talk with John Rummel, senior scientist at the SETI Institute!


We’ll send out a reminder before the event. We hope you’ll join us!

NESSP transitions ROADS on Mars hub events to virtual

As our ROADS on Mars Student Challenge nears its spring hub events, we have watched as the COVID-19 outbreak moves across the United States. To make sure all our teams have the chance to complete the final ROADS challenge in a way that keeps everyone safe and healthy while also making sure everyone still has a shot at the top prize, NESSP is transitioning our hub final challenge events to virtual events.

NESSP Director Robert Winglee writes:

Thank you all for participating in the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. I have watched in awe the postings that are on social media already. Great job everyone! I hope you continue the challenge — and the new challenge that will be announced later this year.

As you are maybe aware, coronavrius is in the U.S. Out of an abundance of caution and to do our part in limiting the spread of the virus, all challenge events for ROADS on Mars Student Challenge will now be virtual. Some of the hubs will just have teams run through the challenge live on streaming video, others will just have you submit your challenge online, and others may be a hybrid of these approaches. Please check our website regularly for updates:

As for the grand prize, we still intend to make the launch of Mars2020 if the coronavirus threat diminishes before the launch. If it does not diminish, winning teams will still have the opportunity to visit a NASA Center at a later time when the coronavirus threat is diminished — so please keep working at the challenge!

All hubs will still hold a (virtual) final challenge event to select their top teams. We will post updated dates and details on how “virtual” will work for each hub as information is available.

Top teams will still receive a grand prize. We will send top teams to Kennedy Space Center for the launch of the Mars2020 / Perseverance rover this summer if travel is safe. If the launch is scrubbed, teams will have the opportunity to visit a NASA Center at a later time.

Exploring space comes with its share of unforeseen complications. Fifty years ago this spring, the crew of Apollo 13 experienced an incident with their craft that caused NASA to scrub that mission’s moon landing. But with all of NASA working together as a team, the three astronauts returned safely to Earth. NESSP is working closely with our challenge hubs to make sure ROADS teams can complete their mission.

We are still excited to see how each team tackles the ROADS challenge — we’re looking forward to exploring Mars with you!

ROADS on Mars — News for teams (Feb. 21, 2020)

Today we bring you some resources that may be helpful on your ROADS mission.

Subject matter experts

Have you missed any of our “Meet a NASA Expert” talks? We have them all archived! You can find them on our website or on our YouTube channel:

Q&A with NESSP for teams

If you missed any of the Q&A sessions that we’ve held for ROADS teams, we have those on YouTube as well!

Equipment resources

If you’re trying to get the hang of your ROADS on Mars equipment, we also have some resources for you that may be helpful:

Register to run a ROADS on Mars summer program!

Summer Registration for our ROADS on Mars Student Challenge is now open!  We would like to encourage NESSP Partners, past NESSP Challenge Teams (ANGLeS), and past NESSP Summer Camp Leads to sign up through our central registration system:

If you have run a NESSP Summer Camp in the past, please note that this year we will primarily be running camps through our ROADS on Mars activities.  After registering, we will contact you with additional paperwork and supply information.

More information about ROADS on Mars can be found at   Please contact with questions!

ROADS on Mars — News for teams (Feb. 12, 2020)

Our next “Meet a NASA Expert” video conference is coming up this week. Details are below — but first, some information on the mini-challenges.

ROADS on Mars mini-challenge submissions

We hope you’ve been working on your ROADS mini-challenges. We’ve loved the videos we’ve seen on social media so far! Don’t forget to submit them to NESSP so that your hub can score them.

Submissions page — If you visit the NESSP website on a computer, you’ll see a white button that says “Mini-challenge submissions!” on the right-hand side. Or you can select “Mini-challenge submission” from the dropdown menu on the top navigation bar.

Have you had problems uploading your video? Don’t forget that the videos (and mission patch photos) are optional! The important thing is to submit at least one link to a social media post.

“Meet a NASA Expert” — Joanna Hogancamp

Our next ROADS on Mars subject matter expert video conference is Thursday, February 13. Joanna Hogancamp from Johnson Space Center will join us. Joanna is part of the Mars research group and conducts laboratory experiments that aim to better understand data from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument on the Curiosity rover! There will be time for questions after Joanna’s talk.

We’ll start at 2 p.m. (Pacific Time).

  • You can join us online (which gives you both audio and video). Zoom will ask if you’d like to use the app or the website:
  • You can join us via phone (which gives you audio only). Dial +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) or +1 646 876 9923 US (New York) and enter meeting ID # 555-543-1943.

More details on using Zoom are on our website.

Not able to make it? Or missed any of our previous expert chats? You can find them on our website:

Team support Q&A with NESSP staff

Have questions about the ROADS challenge? Join us Thursday, February 13, at 3 p.m. (Pacific Time) — yes, right after the chat with Joanna! — to talk with NESSP staff about the challenge.

The ROADS on Mars Student Challenge


Sojourner. Spirit. Opportunity. Curiosity.

These are the four rovers NASA has sent to Mars so far — but more than that, their names represent what drives the teams behind the rovers.

Are you a sojourner? Do you have spirit and curiosity? Are you ready to launch when the next opportunity arises?

The ROADS on Mars challenge gives teams of students grades 3–12 a chance to tackle a mission to Mars, following in the path of the next rover — Mars 2020. Just like the next rover, teams will face challenges including engineering and programming, analysis of biological signatures and geologic features, not to mention flying to Mars and successfully landing.

Top teams from across the country will win a trip to Kennedy Space Center for the launch of Mars 2020!

Challenge walkthrough with Robert

In this video, NESSP Director Robert Winglee gives a walkthrough of most aspects of the ROADS Challenge during a webinar with educators and hub organizers.

ROADS on Mars (soft) launch 🚀

Thank you to everyone who patiently waited out our technical difficulties yesterday and was able to join us for our launch of the ROADS on Mars Challenge.

Our sincerest apologies to everyone who tried to join us and encountered our meeting ID error problem.

For everyone who couldn’t join us, or who just wants to review the information presented, you can access a video of the meeting on our YouTube channel. The video is also presented below for convenience, followed by a list of the questions asked during the Q&A session.

Full details coming soon

Challenge manual — The final, official version of the ROADS on Mars Challenge manual will be available by the end of this week. We do have a draft version available for your perusal.

Registration — Registration for the ROADS challenge will also open by the end of this week.

Zoom meeting video

NESSP Director Robert Winglee provides a quick walking tour of the ROADS on Mars Challenge. Assistance provided by:

  • Kay Ratcliff — Field scientist
  • John Correy — Roboticist
  • Tedrick Mealy — Drone pilot
  • Christina Jarvis — Hub liaison
  • Mary Denmon — Q&A moderator
  • Chris Wallish — Camera crew

Questions from the Zoom meeting

What does someone need to do if they want to host the Challenge?

Contact Christina at She’ll provide you with a document outlining a hub’s responsibilities, and then you’ll discuss with her all of the details about going forward.

How do we buy the 3D map online?

Also contact Christina! She’ll give you all the info you need to order from our partner, Seattle Design and Print. Christina’s email is:

NESSP will provide maps to all hubs, so confirmed hubs don’t need to worry about ordering their own.

NESSP will also provide materials and information on how to create the 3D aspects of the map, including the crater.

What are the Challenge dates?

It depends on each regional hub. The Washington regional hub challenge will be Sunday, April 5, 2020, at the University of Washington in Seattle.

When will registration open?

By the end of this week.

Is NESSP using Google Drive for Challenge documents?

Yes, hubs will have access to a Google Drive with all documents. There is also a Google Drive for educators. To request access, email Christina:

Is the manual online?

Yes! A draft manual is available now. The final, official Challenge manual will be online by the end of this week.

Four days ’til Mars

Are you ready for what comes after the giant leap? NASA’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline invites you to join us on September 23 for the launch of the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge!


Monday, September 23
1 p.m. Pacific Time

[MEC id=”2370″]


Online — The launch will be via Zoom meeting. Details below.


NESSP’s previous project, the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge, gave students the opportunity to recreate Apollo 11’s moon landing using drones and robots. In total, more than 3,000 students participated in the challenge, with the top teams from 15 hubs across the U.S. receiving trips either to Johnson Space Center or Goddard Space Flight Center. The challenge also engaged educators in professional development, with over 300 educators receiving training through the program.

The ROADS on Mars challenge aims to provide similar hands-on experiences for students and educators, this time following in the steps of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Student teams will, again, pilot a drone to land on the surface — in the Jezero crater on Mars, just as the rover will — and will then use a LEGO Mindstorms robot to navigate the surface and complete science objectives. ROADS stands for “rover observation and drone survey,” which are key components of the Mars challenge.

But ROADS on Mars also introduces several mini-challenges that will incorporate biological and geological concepts. Mars 2020 will be searching Mars for signs of past life, and student teams will likewise explore their local environments to identify biosignatures. Teams will also investigate both how craters are formed and the effects of erosion on a landscape.

The challenge will culminate in final events across the U.S. in the spring. Top teams will win trips to Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch of Mars 2020 in the summer!

Joining us for the ROADS launch

The NESSP staff will convene a meeting via Zoom, an online video conferencing service. Staff will present an overview of the challenge as well as brief demonstrations. There will be Q&A at the end. Budget approximately one hour to attend this virtual launch, especially if you’d like to be sure your questions are answered. A video recording of the Zoom meeting will be available later in the week.

You can join the meeting either via the Zoom service or by simply calling in on the phone.

Joining online

Joining via phone

+1-669-900-6833,,216199324# US (San Jose)
+1-646-876-9923,,216199324# US (New York)

ROADS details and registration

The full challenge manual will be available on our website the day of the launch. Registration for the challenge will also open the day of the launch.


If you have questions about the launch, please contact Christina Jarvis at .

Resources for educators

Demo videos for some aspects of the challenge are available on our YouTube channel:

More resources for educators will be available via Google Drive after the launch. To be added to our distribution list, please contact Christina Jarvis at

Ground control to UW campus — Seeking campus-savvy volunteers for lunar mission

Have you, too, heard the call of space and wondered how you can respond? NASA’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP), headed by Washington NASA Space Grant and based out of Johnson Hall, invites you to join us on our next mission — to the moon.

Black and white image showing 5 pairs of feet standing on a map of the lunar surface.

On Friday, July 19, 2019, teams of middle- and high-school students from around Washington state will convene on the UW campus in Seattle for NESSP’s Apollo Next Giant Leap Student (ANGLeS) Challenge. The ANGLeS Challenge is a national challenge celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission by giving students the chance to recreate the moon landing using drones and robots, focusing on making it accessible for underrepresented and underserved communities. The July 19 event at the UW is the final event for teams in Washington state, who have worked throughout the spring on honing their skills in flying drones to deliver their lunar module to the moon, programming their robot to traverse the lunar landscape, and working together as a team to overcome mission challenges. The team who achieves the highest score at the UW event will win a trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they’ll join other top teams from across the country and participate in a showcase of the Challenge.

How can you help? NESSP is looking for volunteers from the UW community to assist us as mission support staff. Enthusiasm for space is helpful, as is an enjoyment of working with young STEM explorers — but really, the most important qualification you can bring is simply your knowledge of the UW campus. Teams will be arriving from all across Washington state, and with ANGLeS Challenge events happening at several campus locations all day long we could use your help in keeping everything running smoothly and teams pointed in the right direction as they move between buildings.

We have volunteer shifts in two hours and four hours. If you’d like to sign up, please complete this Google Form (sign-in is required). If you have questions, please contact our volunteer coordinator: Mary Denmon — All volunteers will receive a small “thank you” gift commemorating the event.

Deadline to sign up

Sign-up will close at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17.

It takes a team to send a mission to the moon. We hope you’ll join our team as we support these students in taking their next giant leap.

ANGLeS Challenge event details

Friday, July 19

  • 8:30 a.m. — Opening ceremony
  • 9:15 a.m. – 5 p.m. — Teams run challenge
  • 6 p.m. — Closing ceremony


It’s time to post your team’s mission patch!

There are two important deadlines coming in the next week for the ANGLeS Challenge.

April 15 — Deadline for organizations to register. All teams must be associated with an organization, so it’s crucial that the organization registers by the end of the day on Monday, April 15. There’s no penalty for registering and then not participating in the Challenge! We encourage all organizations who think they may be interested to register now and make your decision later so that you don’t miss the registration window.

April 19 — Every NASA mission has a mission patch that illustrates the goal and spirit of the project, where the project originates from, and which institutions are participating. Each team is encouraged to create and submit a Mission Patch. We encourage teams to get creative and design a mission patch that represents themselves, their community, and their mission in the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge.

Please post your Mission Patches to the social media with the hashtags #ApolloNextGiantLeap and #Apollo50, then submit the link to us using the form linked below. Note, you will need your team number (e.g. WA999A) to submit the form, so please have that ready. You can find that number in your registration confirmation email.

For inspiration, here are some examples of NASA mission patches from over the years. NASA’s description of the Apollo 11 patch states:

The American eagle, symbolic of the United States, was about to land on the Moon. In its talons, an olive branch indicated the crew “came in peace for all mankind.” The Earth, the place from which the crew came and would return safely in order to fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to the nation, rested on a field of black, representing the vast unknown of space

ANGLeS Challenge registration extended to April 15!

Have you been thinking about registering for the ANGLeS Challenge, but been worried you won’t have time?

We’re pleased to give you a little more time — the ANGLeS Challenge registration deadline for organizations is now April 15! Read all the details on our registration page to be sure your organization and team(s) have been properly registered. Registration is necessary in order to receive the NASA certificate and, most importantly, to have a chance at one of the grand prize trips to a NASA center!

(There are no penalties for registering now and choosing later to not run the Challenge. If you’re interested, it’s better to register now to be sure your organization/team is signed up, then decide later if you’ll run the Challenge or not.)

Once you’ve registered, check out the resources and supplies pages to make sure you have everything your team needs for the Challenge. And don’t forget the timeline page to make sure all the important deadlines are on your calendar.

See you on the launch pad!


Black and white image showing 5 pairs of feet standing on a map of the lunar surface.

Picture yourself on the moon, taking that “one small step” onto the surface.

A side image showing Bobak "Mohawk guy" Ferdowsi's hair during the Mars Curiosity landing.

Or picture yourself in the control room as the next rover is setting down on Mars.

Back in the 1960s, NASA’s Apollo program landed the first humans on the moon.  In the 1970s, NASA sent the Viking probes to Mars. In the 1980s, the Space Shuttle program took astronauts into space on a regular basis and for longer and longer missions.

And now, NASA is looking to the not-too-distant future when humans will step onto the moon again — and when they’ll take that long, giant leap onto Mars.

These University of Washington students demonstrate the challenge involving a lunar lander (left, orange) a Lego Mindstorms robot (center) and rock samples (right).

Now it’s your turn.

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and to prepare for the next giant leap, NASA’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP) invites students to enter the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge — the ANGLeS Challenge. Open to students in grades 5-12 across the United States and territories, the event challenges student teams to recreate the Apollo 11 moon landing using a drone and a LEGO Mindstorms robot.

Organizations will run the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge locally to select a team to advance to the nearest regional challenge hub. The top team at each regional challenge hub will earn the grand prize of a trip to a NASA center!

Who can participate?

The ANGLeS Challenge is open to all students in the United States and territories who are in grades 5-12. We encourage everyone to give the challenge a try!

Registration opens February 1, 2019.

What are the prizes?

The top team from each regional challenge hub will receive a trip to Johnson Space Center in August 2019.

The top team from each state, Washington D.C., and territories will receive official recognition, even if your area doesn’t have a regional challenge hub.

What’s the challenge?

Each team will build a replica of the lunar module and use a remote-controlled drone to land it on an 8-by-10-foot map of the moon’s surface. Students will modify and program a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot to then explore the lunar surface and bring back a rock sample.

High school students will also use the drone to retrieve the team’s lunar module and bring it back to the starting line.

Full details of all stages of the challenge will be in the manual, to be available on February 1, 2019.

Where are the regional challenge hubs?

Washington state

What’s the timeline?

February 1 — Registration opens! Register your team and start getting ready for the challenge.

April, May, & June — Practice your drone and robotics skills.

July 15–20 — Regional hubs will hold their final challenges.

UW-based group launches national challenge to recreate first moon landing — with drones and Lego robots

A Lego Mindstorms robot, with a plastic astronaut strapped to the front, approaches the lunar lander. Student teams will program the robot to explore the moon's surface.

A Lego Mindstorms robot, with a plastic astronaut strapped to the front, approaches the lunar lander. Student teams will program the robot to explore the moon’s surface. Dennis Wise/University of Washington

By Hannah Hickey
UW News

On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission landed the first two people on the surface of the moon. NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong took the first steps and famously proclaimed: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

This July will mark the 50th anniversary of that landmark event. The University of Washington’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline is calling on the next generation of astronauts and aeronautical engineers to recreate the historic event using modern technology.

A flying drone carries a lunar lander above a map of the moon's surface. The landing spot is the actual site of the Apollo 11 landing. Other craters that teams will explore are circled in red.

A flying drone carries a lunar lander above a map of the moon’s surface. The landing spot is the actual site of the Apollo 11 landing. Other craters that teams will explore are circled in red. Dennis Wise/University of Washington

At a kickoff event Jan. 30 in Kent, Washington, the organizers will officially open the Apollo 50 Next Giant Leap Student Challenge, known for short as the ANGLeS Challenge, in collaboration with NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“This is a truly interdisciplinary challenge, involving computer programming, robotics, remote sensing and design,” said Robert Winglee, director of the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline and a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. “We’re calling it the ‘next giant leap.’”

Teams of students from fifth to 12th grades are invited to participate. Each team will build a replica of the lunar lander and use a remote-controlled drone to land it on an 8-by-10-foot map of the moon’s surface. Students will modify and program a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot to then explore the lunar surface and bring back a rock sample.

High school students will also use the drone to retrieve the team’s lunar module and bring it back to the starting line.

As in a real-life expedition, teams will also create a mission patch, design uniforms, do event outreach and leave a “culturally significant artifact” on the lunar surface.

Organizers emphasize that it’s a challenge, not a contest. Teams will be judged on multiple criteria and can earn various prizes. No experience is required; registration opens Feb. 1.

These University of Washington students demonstrate the challenge involving a lunar lander (left, orange) a Lego Mindstorms robot (center) and rock samples (right).

These University of Washington students demonstrate the challenge involving a lunar lander (left, orange) a Lego Mindstorms robot (center) and rock samples (right). Dennis Wise/University of Washington

The challenge has no entry fee. A $500 kit contains subsidized equipment including the drone and Lego Mindstorms parts, and loaner equipment will be available to schools that qualify. Accommodation at the UW campus will be covered for teams at schools with more than 50 percent subsidized lunches. The organizers will also help all teams with fundraising, and can provide drone and robotics training on request.

“An important aspect of the project is to provide access to NASA science and technology for many of the underserved and underrepresented communities across the U.S.,” Winglee said.

Teams must include one adult to act as the coach, and a five-member “flight crew” all under the age of 18 who will be on the challenge field to pilot the drone, operate the robot, identify rock samples and guide the pilot. Other members of the mixed-grade teams will help with building equipment, designing logos and other off-the-field tasks.

The Northwest challenge will be held in July in Seattle and is open to teams from schools or recognized informal education programs in Washington. Twelve other NASA regional hubs will also host events the week of July 15-20. The winning team from each location will win a trip in early August to visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The initial sponsors of the national challenge are drone maker Force1, NASA, the Museum of Flight, Pacific Science Center and the City of Kent. Organizers are seeking more event sponsors, and volunteers to help advise teams and host the challenges.

The UW-based Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline consortium was created in 2016 with a $10 million cooperative agreement that established a “NASA hub” in the Pacific Northwest. The group conducts teacher trainings, especially in underrepresented communities; its past events include a NASA Pow Wow in Ellensburg and a NASA Fiesta in Seattle.

“Smaller-scale, related STEM efforts in recent years have shown that student participants have increasing interest and skill in doing STEM activities,” Winglee said. “The Apollo effort seeks to expand this effort on a national scale.”


More information is at The challenge email is

Members of the media can contact communications officer Chris Wallish at 206-221-7743 or

Originally posted at UW News.

NASA Fiesta in Seattle — Monday, July 9, 2018

As part of a unique NASA weeklong science education training for teachers and educators, the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP) will co-host the NASA Fiesta de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (Science and Technology Festival) at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle on Monday, July 9, 2018.

This family friendly event is free and open to the public.

The Fiesta will honor the spirit of joy and gathering through music, food and language, while offering the chance for those young and old to engage in fun activities to learn science through hands-on activities. This event offers an opportunity for the public to come together, meet with NASA scientists, meet old friends and make new ones, while celebrating culture, heritage, science and technology.

The NASA Fiesta de la Ciencia y la Tecnología is presented with the support of NESSP, El Centro de la Raza, outreach groups from different departments at University of Washington, and other members of the Latinx community planning to attend.


Monday, July 9, 2018
6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.


El Centro de la Raza
2524 16th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144



NASA Pow Wow in Ellensburg — Wednesday, June 27, 2018

As part of a special weeklong NASA science education training program for teachers and educators, the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP) will co-host the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Inter-Tribal Pow Wow at Central Washington University on Wednesday, June 27, starting at 5 p.m.

The Pow Wow is a family friendly event that is free and open to the public.  Prior to the Pow Wow, there will be rocket launches, drone demonstrations, archery competitions and photography exhibits running Wednesday afternoon, 1-5 p.m. There will also be a payload building station for children, with the contents launched in a high altitude balloon at 8:15 a.m. on June 28.

The event is being presented with support and representation from the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Wanapum, Spokane Tribe and other tribes planning to attend.

The NASA Inter-Tribal Pow Wow will honor the traditions of the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest through song, dance, food and games, while offering the chance for those young and old to engage in fun activities to learn science in a culturally relevant way.

A pow wow—derived from the Narragansett word powwaw meaning “spiritual leader”—has historically been a gathering of North America’s Native people. More modern pow wows have become a cultural celebration for Native American and First Nations people to meet, dance, sing, socialize and honor their cultures.

This event offers an opportunity for the public to come together, meet with NASA scientists, meet old friends and make new ones, while celebrating culture and heritage.