News and Updates

08/26/2012

While the Mars rover Curiosity explores the red planet, those of us here on Earth can see a replica of the vehicle made by Jim Arbaugh at the Science Discovery Center in Santa Anna, and later this week in Arizona State University’s new research building, Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV.

Arbaugh has spent much of the last year working on the two replicas, the one on exhibit in Orange County and the other, more sophisticated model to be transported to ASU.

Curiosity weighs nearly 2,000 pounds including 180 pounds of scientific instruments. It is 9 feet, 6 inches long, nearly 9 feet wide and a little over 7 feet tall. Arbaugh's version matches the dimensions of the real thing except it weigh 450 pounds. It fills the space of one car in his two-car garage.

Kip Hodges, director of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said Arbaugh was recommended to him by the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. Hodges has seen pictures of Arbaugh's work on the rover. “It's truly spectacular,” said Hodges. “I think this is worth every penny.”
On Aug. 31, Arbaugh will disassemble his 450-pound project, load it on a truck and drive it to Tempe, Ariz. The rover will be installed over the Labor Day weekend.

Before he started work on the first model, he had to be given a security clearance. Then JPL handed over plans to him. The first model on display in Orange County took three months to build. The model he's done for Arizona State is “a complete replica down to the instrumentation,” he said. “The one I did for the Discovery Science Center represented a mock up. This is representative of the actual vehicle on Mars with as much information as I could gather.”
 

08/22/2012

Arizona State University is kicking off a pilot program aimed at improving access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes for students who are blind or visually impaired.

Called 3D-IMAGINE (Image Arrays to Graphically Implement New Education), the program will use three-dimensional materials to enhance independent learning. Researchers are seeking as many program participants as possible from both ASU and the wider community.

Beginning biology (100) and astronomy (113) lab classes each will have one section using new, 3-D tactile boards designed specifically for students who are blind or visually impaired. However, sighted students may use the materials as well.

“Textbook images typically contain important messages, whether it’s intensity or altitude, or cell structure,” said Rogier Windhorst, Regents’ and Foundation Professor in ASU’s School of Earth & Space Exploration. “We think these messages can be conveyed in a 3-D tactile just fine. While a person who is blind would have to sense the information, we believe 3-D images may open up a new world in STEM courses for students who are visually impaired.”

To test their theory, an ASU interdisciplinary research team developed a series of 3-D tactile boards that represent key textbook images. Students need to understand these images in order to successfully complete each science class. Made of high-density plastic, the boards will initially cost about $60 each, and be used in place of or in addition to traditional lab materials.

The goal is to provide an opportunity for students who are blind or visually impaired, to learn the material independently.

College level STEM courses are typically rigorous, but for blind or visually impaired students, these classes often present even greater challenges. Imagine taking an astronomy class and having to depend on someone else to accurately and effectively describe a photo of a nebula, or in biology, detail the image of a cell.

The idea to turn digital images into 3-D tactile representations originated in Debra Baluch’s upper-level Cell Biotechnology class. Baluch, a research scientist in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, taught junior Ashleigh Gonzales last spring. Gonzales is pursing a degree in molecular biosciences and biotechnology, and is visually impaired.

“She is just as capable as anyone else in the class of doing this level of science, but unfortunately, she faces a barrier,” said Baluch. “What she chooses as a career may be decided by her visual impairment, even though she has the same level of education as her peers. We can improve access to our STEM classes by providing these 3-D models which we expect will enhance independent learning in students who are visually impaired.”

“Accessible is an interesting term,” said Terri Hedgpeth, director of ASU’s Disability Resource Center. “When a student signs up for a class, we get the textbook and convert it into Braille or electronic text, and we render tactile diagrams that go along with it. That’s time-consuming and expensive,” she added. “What we are doing in this pilot program allows us to create 3-D models which provide a better tactile representation of the material. It’s very different from the line pictures we typically produce.”

If the pilot program is successful, the team hopes to lay the foundation for using the 3-D tactile boards in all 100 level STEM courses. The group is currently seeking funding from the National Science Foundation and other organizations to support the program.

“I would like to see students be inspired to take additional classes in STEM and consider majors in the STEM fields,” said Hedgpeth. “Maybe we can excite them a bit and raise their hopes for a better level of access.”
The team includes researchers from ASU's School of Life Sciences, School of Earth & Space Exploration, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and Disability Resource Center.

For more information on 3D-IMAGINE, contact Rogier Windhorst at rogier.windhorst@asu.edu, or Debra Baluch at page.baluch@asu.edu.

To participate in the Biology 100 and Astronomy 113 classes, contact Cindy Jepsen at cindy.jepsen@asu.edu, 480-965-1232 and/or Becca Dial in SESE Office ISTB4-795C, Rebecca.Dial@asu.edu Phone: 480-965-2213 or 480-965-5081.
 

Image: ASU senior Ashleigh Gonzales tests new 3-D tactile boards that will be used in basic STEM courses. Gonzales, who is blind, is part of an ASU research team developing the materials. Photo by: Jacob Mayfield

(Sandy Leander)

08/20/2012

Ronald Greeley Planetary Geology Scholarship for Undergraduate Students

The School of Earth and Space Exploration is delighted to announce the new Ronald Greeley Planetary Geology Scholarship for ASU undergraduate students. The Greeley Scholarship is supported by an endowment in the ASU Foundation established by Cynthia (Cindy) Greeley in honor of her late husband, SESE Regents Professor Ronald Greeley, a recognized founder of the field of modern-day planetary geology, and a respected and beloved member of the SESE community. Many of Ron's colleagues, friends, and family members have made donations to build the endowment. Read more about Ron here

DEADLINE: Complete applications must be received by 5 p.m., Wednesday, 12 September, 2012

Download application form here

08/14/2012

Arizona State University researchers use EarthScope data to build the first comprehensive earthquake catalog for Arizona

Earthquakes are among the most destructive and common of geologic phenomena. Several million earthquakes are estimated to occur worldwide each year (the vast majority are too small to feel, but their motions can be measured by arrays of seismometers). Historically, most of Arizona has experienced low levels of recorded seismicity, with infrequent moderate and large earthquakes in the state. Comprehensive analyses of seismicity within Arizona have not been previously possible due to a lack of seismic stations in most regions, contributing to the perception that widespread earthquakes in Arizona are rare. Debunking that myth, a new study published by Arizona State University researchers found nearly 1,000 earthquakes rattling the state over a three-year period.

Jeffrey Lockridge, a graduate student in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the project’s lead researcher, used new seismic data collected as part of the EarthScope project to develop methods to detect and locate small-magnitude earthquakes across the entire state of Arizona. EarthScope’s USArray Transportable Array was deployed within Arizona from April 2006 to March 2009 and provided the first opportunity to examine seismicity on a statewide scale. Its increased sensitivity allowed Lockridge to find almost 1,000 earthquakes during the three-year period, including many in regions of Arizona that were previously thought to be seismically inactive.

“It is significant that we found events in areas where none had been detected before, but not necessarily surprising given the fact that many parts of the state had never been sampled by seismometers prior to the deployment of the EarthScope USArray,” says Lockridge. “I expected to find some earthquakes outside of north-central Arizona, where the most and largest events had previously been recorded, just not quite so many in other areas of the state.”

One-thousand earthquakes over three years may sound alarmingly high, but the large number of earthquakes detected in the study is a direct result of the improved volume and quality of seismic data provided by EarthScope. Ninety-one percent of the earthquakes Lockridge detected in Arizona were “microquakes” with a magnitude of 2.0 or smaller, which are not usually felt by humans. Detecting small-magnitude earthquakes is not only important because some regions experiencing small earthquakes may produce larger earthquakes, but also because geologists use small magnitude earthquakes to map otherwise hidden faults beneath the surface.

Historically, the largest earthquakes and the majority of seismicity recorded within Arizona have been located in an area of north–central Arizona. More recently, a pair of magnitude 4.9 and 5.3 earthquakes occurred in the Cataract Creek area outside of Flagstaff. Earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or larger also have occurred in other areas of the state, including a magnitude 4.2 earthquake in December 2003 in eastern Arizona and a magnitude 4.9 earthquake near Chino Valley in 1976.

“The wealth of data provided by the EarthScope project is an unprecedented opportunity to detect and locate small-magnitude earthquakes in regions where seismic monitoring (i.e. seismic stations) has historically been sparse,” explains Lockridge. “Our study is the first to use EarthScope data to build a regional catalog that detects all earthquakes magnitude 1.2 or larger.”

His results appear in a paper titled, “Seismicity within Arizona during the Deployment of the EarthScope USArray Transportable Array,” published in the August 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. Ramon Arrowsmith and Matt Fouch, professors in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, are Lockridge’s dissertation advisors and coauthors on the paper. Fouch is also a geophysicist at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, DC.

“The most surprising result was the degree to which the EarthScope data were able to improve upon existing catalogs generated by regional and national networks. From April 2007 through November 2008, other networks detected only 80 earthquakes within the state, yet over that same time we found 884 earthquakes, or 11 times as many, which is really quite staggering,” says Lockridge. “It’s one of countless examples of how powerful the EarthScope project is and how much it is improving our ability to study Earth.”

Lockridge is also lead author on a study that focuses on a cluster of earthquakes located east of Phoenix, near Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The results from this study will be published in Seismological Research Letters later this year. In his current studies as doctoral student, Lockridge is using the same methods used for Arizona to develop a comprehensive earthquake catalog for the Great Basin region in Nevada and western Utah.

 

Image: Nearly 60 USArray stations were installed in Arizona from 2006 to 2009 as part of the EarthScope project. Station 118A, seen in this photo, recorded ground motion north of Wilcox in southeastern Arizona from April 6, 2007 to January 21, 2009. Credit: Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (funded by NSF EarthScope)

 

(Nikki Cassis)

 

08/13/2012

An article published in Christian Science Monitor August 12 looks at the strong social presence of Curiosity, and then examines whether this mission could impact future generations of students by inspiring them to go into a science-related field.

According to the article, scholars who evaluate the state of science education worry that the United States is falling behind and not preparing students for a future that will depend more on scientific and technological skills.

Experts and scientists hope that the popularity of this Mars mission, one of the first major NASA expeditions with a wide social media presence, will boost interest in science and technology.

They are still figuring out the exact numbers, but it seems that almost 4.5 million people watched the landing on TV and that more than 3.2 million streamed it over the Internet, according to David Seidel, deputy education director for the JPL. Curiosity has more than 240,000 Facebook "likes" and close to 900,000 Twitter followers.

Kip Hodges, a professor and the director of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration in Tempe, says he has high hopes that students will be inspired by the rover. A new research facility at the school is equipped with a 3-D high-definition theater and space to project images streamed from Mars. Mr. Hodges says some scientific disciplines are already growing rapidly, with young people concerned about the environment, and that the cool factor and interactive tools NASA created for Curiosity could attract a lot of interest.

“It’s like the greatest video game in the world, you’re dealing with an avatar on another planet, and one that’s really there,” says Hodges about the mobile Mars laboratory’s appeal.

 

 

08/07/2012

On Sunday, August 5, NASA successfully landed “Curiosity” rover on the surface of Mars. Kip Hodges, director of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, discussed the mission and ASU’s involvement in it, with Arizona Horizon host Ted Simmons.

"We have a deep breach into this mission, which involves hundreds of scientists," says Hodges. "Many of our faculty and students and alumni are involved with actually interpretting the data that comes back over the next couple of years."

Four ASU professors are involved with instruments on the mission. Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa is a co-investigator with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, essentially an analytical chemistry system. Amy McAdam, an alumnus, is also working on SAM. Professor Jack Farmer is a science team member for a different instrument, CheMin, designed to examine the chemical and mineralogical properties of rocks and soils. And professor Alberto Behar is an investigation scientist for the Russian Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument. Professor Jim Bell is a member of the teams operating the rover’s cameras Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) and MastCam.

"Arizona is a pretty magnificent state in regards to its contributions to space exploration, both with what we do and what the University of Arizona does as well," says Hodges. "We're positioning ourselves now at ASU to be able to build more and more effective instruments for space exploration. We just finished some new laboratories in a new building on the campus of ASU that will allow us to do this in a much more profound way than we have in the past. There are only a handful of universities in the US that have the capacity to build space-ready hardware for NASA - ASU is one of them, given our new digs, and University of Arizona."

To watch the entire interview, visit: http://www.azpbs.org/arizonahorizon/detailvid.php?id=13984
 

08/06/2012

Curiosity rover’s successful landing launches the most sustained human study of the planet most like Earth in our solar system

In the late hours of Aug. 5, NASA and space enthusiasts around the world celebrated the successful landing of NASA’s most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity. Known officially as the Mars Science Laboratory, the one-ton, Mini Cooper-size rover set down onto Mars to end a nearly eight-month flight and begin a two-year investigation.

It was event that was watched closely by millions of people in the U.S. and around the world.

Numerous “Mars landing parties” were planned, including one at Arizona State University.

A standing-room-only crowd estimated at more than 150 people jammed the auditorium at ASU’s Mars Space Flight Facility to watch as Curiosity touched down in Gale Crater on the Red Planet. When mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the landing, the crowd let out a huge roar of delight.

“The tension in the room was almost palpable. I’m pretty sure everyone was feeling slightly nervous because of how radical the “sky crane” idea was, and how badly we all wanted it to go off without a hitch,” says Benjamin Stinnett, a sophomore majoring in Earth and Space Exploration (Systems Design). “At every sign of good news from mission control at the Jet Propulsion Lab, the entire auditorium erupted into cheering. The news of a safe landing and the first pictures to come back sent a rush of euphoria over the entire crowd. It was a truly momentous occasion.”

The spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars. Instead of the familiar airbag landing systems of the past Mars missions, an innovative sky crane touchdown system was used to softly land the massive rover.

“What an incredible and emotional experience, watching along with hundreds of engineers, scientists, and students as the wild “sky crane” landing system for Curiosity literally unfolded in front of our eyes… flawlessly,” says Jim Bell, a member of the teams operating the rover’s cameras MAHLI, MARDI, and MastCam, who watched the excitement from JPL.

In addition to Bell, three other ASU professors are involved with instruments on the mission.

Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa is a co-investigator with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, essentially an analytical chemistry system. Professor Jack Farmer is a science team member for a different instrument, CheMin, designed to examine the chemical and mineralogical properties of rocks and soils. Professor Alberto Behar is an investigation scientist for the Russian Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument.

“I can’t imagine the impact Curiosity’s successful landing and mission will have on the public, a restoration of faith in NASA’s programs since the retirement of the shuttle program. It inspires me to continue on my path to a career in space exploration,” says Pye Pye Khin Zaw, a senior majoring in Earth and Space Exploration. “Seconds after the landing I whispered to my boyfriend that I wished to someday soon be one of the people in Mission Control, overjoyed and celebrating the success of a mission I dedicated years to, and making a difference in the world. It’s a nice goal to strive toward and one to guide me through the tougher times I face in classes or projects.”

“This was a fantastic achievement, and one that opens an exciting new chapter in Mars exploration,” says Philip Christensen, director of the Mars Space Flight Facility, part of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. He is also principal investigator for the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a multi-band camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. Odyssey is the spacecraft which relayed the landing data directly to Earth as it was happening.

“Over the coming days, weeks, and months we are going to take the rover – and the public – on an incredible voyage through Martian history as we drive through the spectacular layered rocks of Gale crater. We’ll learn about the Red Planet’s watery past, but most importantly, we’ll learn a lot about the history of habitable environments not only on Mars, but on our own planet as well,” says Bell.

(Nikki Cassis)

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

 

 

 

07/31/2012

By Lori Prause

All good stories have adventure, romance, and an unsolvable murder. This story is therefore disqualified as ‘good’, but don’t fret because randomness and humor often are great substitutes.

Our story begins with 16 dwarfs (geology students), three good fairies (very capable teaching assistants), and a Wizard (the wise Professor Sharp). Many of the dwarfs you already know from another classic story, such as Dopey, Sneezy, Grouchy, and Happy, but a few new characters join this tale—Farty , Belchy, Squirmy, Chatty….etc. The good fairies cook and clean, hovering around the dwarfs so they stay safe, have full tummies, and don’t squabble, but their greatest task is to make sure the dwarfs stay focused when they are supposed to be grinding out reports on the rented HP computers. The dwarfs have great respect for the Wizard and try constantly to learn the secrets that churn in his brain, but when they get close to figuring something out, he squints his eyes sideways and says, “Ah……ah………ah.”

Dwarfs naturally belong in the woods, so that is where their tents are pitched. There are tiny, “how-does-a-big-guy-like-you-fit-into-that?” type tents, dome tents that look like the cover to a sewage treatment plants, and a Queen of Sheba tent complete with beads in the doorway and musicians playing tambourines. Then there are the work tents that at night become four glowing oracles, with the soft hum of a Honda 2000 generator in the background. All is well and good until “cough... cough... sputter,” and the lights go out. The dwarfs close their eyes for a three minute nap while one of the good fairies fills the tank with carbon emitting fuel and the lights go back on.

There is a bit of natural selection between the work tents. No assignments were made as to who sits by whom, but like attracts like. There is the “Happy Tent,” filled with screams of Led Zeppelin, belching, and farting, followed by peals of laughter. There is the “Serious Student Tent,” where the dwarfs all have headphones, hunch over their computers with intense glares, and are startled into reality when called for dinner. Lastly, there is the “We Are All in This Together Tent,” where common phrases are heard like “how do you spell...?” and “please pass the white out... again.”

The dwarfs arise early to coffee and a cold breakfast, kindly provided by the good fairies. They pack their lunches, strap on their tool belts, and whistle off to work. Their days are filled with perilous adventures, such as losing a hammer while doing a triple axel into a swimming hole. At times they run into ticked off rattlesnakes that are out looking for a new girlfriend and are annoyed by the dwarfs traipsing around while they are making their moves. The dwarfs are ripped and torn when the evil spirit of Mirkwood Forest comes alive clawing and grabbing at every available body part. As they return to camp, weary and forlorn, the good fairies flutter and conjure up vital refreshing nourishment of Gatorade, pretzels, salsa, and chips.

All was well in the contented little camp until news came of an evil bear beast in the vicinity. Boot-legged snacks and horded delicacies hidden by the dwarfs in their tents were moved into the cars, as to not attract the beast. With trepidation, all went warily off to bed. The first voice heard in the morning was from Baldy, the eldest and wisest dwarf yelling, “Get! Get out of here!” He then stabbed the beast with his lethal laser pointer and it went crying and limping away. Not that no damage was done to Baldy’s tent. This is just one more proof to be added to the volumes of instances already documented that duct tape can fix anything.

The camp is filled with stations. There is the smoking section where art is made in the air with billowing smoke, the Jack and the Bean Stalk station where dwarfs hang from hammocks with stocking caps and wide grins on their faces, the eyebrow plucking station where female dwarfs are saved from the dreaded uni-brow, and the chill out, jam out, stinky feet out station.

The dwarfs have an affinity for rocks because dwarf bodies are composed of nearly 90 percent (by volume) of internal, magical, rock attracting magnetite. They were born that way, so as with all disabilities they should be treated with compassion and understanding. If they see a rock, they pick it up. If they don’t see it, it just jumps into their pockets, tool belt, or backpack. They surround themselves with these ornamental gems. There are rocks on the tables where they work, around the fire ring, in the kitchen, in their computer bags, and in their dreams. No rock is ugly to them. For some reason the pleasure taken in adoring a rock is increased when they hit it violently with a hammer. Then the dwarf smiles at the crumbled waste as the rock’s true beauty is revealed.

Well, all good (and bad) stories come to an end. The work got done at camp and none of the dwarfs were squashed, lost (permanently), eaten, or hung. The good fairies packed up the tents for another day, and the Wizard squinted his eyes sideways, smiled, and said, “Ah…ah……ah.”
 

07/31/2012

For many science undergraduates, research experience can sometimes be difficult to achieve. A number of programs have become available to give undergraduate students much needed research experience, like NASA’s Space Grant program, and others such as the program offered by The Consortium for Undergraduate Research and Education in Astronomy (CUREA).

The CUREA program is run by Paula Turner (Kenyon College), and offered yearly. Designed to prepare undergraduate students for science research, the two-week program at the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory consists of a rigorous astronomy curriculum, combined with several field trips to locations such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology.

This year, two SESE undergrad students, Fran Pavlicko and Ray Sanders, were accepted to the CUREA program. Having access to facilities at Mt. WIlson Observatory, Pavlicko chose to perform solar research using the historic Snow Telescope. By performing detailed spectroscopic analysis, Pavlicko was able to show conclusive evidence for the differential rotation of our sun.

“The entire experience was absolutely incredible, especially for an undergraduate student seeking the necessary knowledge and practical skills needed to perform high quality research having the potential for publishable results. Every staff member involved in this program did an outstanding job teaching and assisting each student, and provided excellent personalized attention that is rarely matched in the traditional university campus setting,” says Pavlicko.

Opting to study the night skies, Sanders chose to perform detailed photometry on an understudied binary star system in the constellation Aquila. By utilizing different color filters, Sanders was able to map changes in the apparent color of the system to the orbital period. Additionally, by collecting data with different color filters, Sanders was able to establish magnitude values that had not been collected for the binary system.

While the program was centered on astronomy research, some time was set aside for fun. In addition to the tours of JPL and Caltech, CUREA participants received several behind-the-scenes tours of key facilities at Mt. WIlson, including the 100” and 60” telescopes, as well as the 60’ and 150’ solar telescope towers. During the program, students had two nights to observe the night skies with the 60” reflecting telescope. Being able to see color in objects like the Ring Nebula, and the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules was a breathtaking experience for the students. When looking at the Moon and Saturn, the views through the custom 4” diameter eyepiece made it feel like an approach in a space ship.

Aside from the workshops and facility tours, many of the CUREA volunteers are established astronomers and researchers, which provided students with valuable mentoring and project feedback. Given the scenic views on Mt. WIlson, highly knowledgeable instructors, and the incredible equipment available, one could find it difficult to leave at the end of the workshop.

"The CUREA program is a great way to gain hands-on experience in making astronomical observations and understanding the process of observational astrophysics research,” says Turner. “The schedule is packed with classes, tours, and observing time - day and night - to help participants make the most of the opportunity to live and work at this historic observatory. And the program is unique, to my knowledge, in its dual focus on solar and stellar astrophysics. Directing this program over the past decade has been the most fun I have doing astronomy."

If you’d like to learn more about the The Consortium for Undergraduate Research and Education in Astronomy (CUREA), visit: http://physics.kenyon.edu/people/turner/cureaweb/CUREA.htm
 

(By Ray Sanders)

Photo of Sanders and Pavlicko

07/30/2012

The landing on Mars of Curiosity – NASA's biggest, newest, and most capable rover – will wrap up a STEM learning conference for educators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory by the Mars Education Program of Arizona State University. The Mars Education Program is at the Mars Space Flight Facility, part of the School of Earth and Space Exploration on the Tempe campus.

"Bring 'Curiosity' into your classroom!" is the theme of the conference to take place Aug. 3-5, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on Mars Sunday night, Aug. 5, at 10:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time/Mountain Standard Time.

"Landing on Mars is really hard. No one knows what will happen," says Sheri Klug Boonstra, director of the Mars Education Program and organizer of the conference. "Our goal in this conference is to bring educators to a place where they'll see planetary exploration history being made."

ASU's Mars Education Program, begun in 1992, has helped more than 40,000 students (grades K through early college) learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. The program provides exciting STEM-based activities with a Mars focus; it also gives students authentic research opportunities using a camera orbiting Mars, through its Mars Student Imaging Project.

The program's activities, well-tested and national standards-aligned, key off the excitement of Mars exploration to engage students' interest and teach them scientific methods and thinking.

"We hope that educators who attend will carry back to their classrooms the thrill of exploring Mars," says Klug Boonstra. "And use the classroom activities we'll give them to build their students' skills in STEM subjects."

For more about the conference, go to http://marsed.asu.edu/curiosity.

Image: ASU's Mars Education Program helps teachers develop STEM skills in their students by bringing the excitement of exploring Mars to the classroom. A conference for educators organized by the Mars Education Program will conclude on August 5 with the landing of NASA's new Mars rover, Curiosity. Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Robert Burnham)