CONTOUR Challenge Selects Teams to View Launch
Katy Kaufman and her biology and physical science teacher Pam Vaughan from Fordyce High School in Arkansas will
set up a tent with displays about comets at the annual Fordyce on the Cottonbelt Festival.
Meghan Cammilleri and her teacher Michael Stapleton at Northwestern Middle School in Winsted, CT, will write a
children's book about comets and give copies to local libraries, schools and planetariums.
These are two of the four winning entries in a national competition sponsored by NASA's Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR)
mission and Cornell University. The two other winning teams, from schools in Buffalo, NY and Guffey, CO, will attend
the mission launch scheduled for July 1.
As part of Cornell's educational outreach for the mission, students and their teachers were challenged to devise a
program to engage their communities about CONTOUR's mission to study at least two comets as they travel through the inner
solar system. The spacecraft will provide the closest look ever at a comet's nucleus.
Laura Lautz, the mission's education and public outreach coordinator at Cornell, said proposals were received from 22
states. "The contest was very competitive, and the evaluation committee was very impressed with all the entries. All
winners and runners up should be proud of their accomplishments," she said. The winners, two from high schools and two
from middle schools, were chosen by a panel of educators and scientists on the basis of the originality and feasibility
of the submitted plans.
The four students and their teachers will travel to Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, FL, where they will watch
the launch, meet CONTOUR scientists, take part in a variety of pre-launch educational events, tour the Kennedy Space
Center and attend a briefing by scientists and engineers. Each team will be allowed a budget of up to $1,000 for its
educational program and receive a kit of mission materials.
The 33 runners-up (12 from high schools, 21 from middle schools) will receive the kit of materials to help them follow
through with their plans. They also will be able to watch the launch on their computers via web streaming and to ask
questions of mission scientists following the launch.
Fordyce sophomore Kaufman calls her proposal "Comets on the Cottonbelt," and she and her teacher plan to participate in
the town's annual festival with a float in the parade, a tent with demonstrations of how to make a model comet and other
learning centers, comet facepainting, a video and a question-and-answer session. They also plan to make presentations to
groups at the Dallas County Museum and to teachers at various conventions.
Junior Andrea Sease and her biology teacher Marilou Bebak at Nardin Academy High School in Buffalo, NY, call their
proposal "Cool Comets. " At the Buffalo Museum of Science, where Sease has a part-time job with the Astronomy Department
and Bebak works part-time in astronomy education, they plan a hands-on public presentation on comets and the mission.
Their audience will be museum visitors, Scout troops and teachers. They also plan a comet section for the Nardin Academy
and Buffalo Museum of Science web sites.
Cammilleri, who is in grade 8 at Northwestern Middle School, and Stapleton, her social studies/geography/history teacher,
plan to donate copies of their children's book on CONTOUR and comets to local libraries, schools, and planetariums. Included
in the book will be material for a teacher's lesson plan on comets. The two also will read from the book at the New Hartford
Library during children's story hour.
Matthew Smith, who is in grade 8 at the Guffey Community Charter School in Guffey, CO, and his science teacher Chris Peterson,
call their proposal, "Rural Space Science Challenge." They plan a community meeting at their school to talk about the CONTOUR
mission and their launch experiences. They also plan to give talks at the Denver Museum, write an article for the community
magazine, and create a web site.
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