RIT and Rochester Museum & Science Center win $600,000 from NASA

Funding will support ‘NASA Family Day’ events

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The Rochester Museum & Science Center and RIT are on a mission to inspire and engage preteens and their families with a program highlighting NASA science and technology.

A $598,185 grant from NASA will fund the development of six “NASA Family Day” events at the museum. Themes featuring NASA missions, technology, discoveries and imagery will include the Earth as a Planet, Life in the Universe, Superhuman Physical Achievement, Communicating On and Off the Planet, Earth in the Solar System and Major Feats of Engineering. The project was funded as part of NASA’s $6.2 million Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums.

Funding for this project represents the first NASA grant won by RIT and Rochester Museum & Science Center following a formal partnership between the two institutions made official last summer. The partnership links the museum’s and the university’s efforts to inspire students to embrace careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as the “STEM” disciplines.

“The Rochester Museum & Science Center is the place to go to discover the fun of science and technology,” says science center president Kate Bennett. “We are inspiring the next generation of Rochester innovators and entrepreneurs, and RIT s the perfect partner.”

Coordinators from the museum and RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science will spend three years developing the family-day events and planetarium shows. Key to the project’s success is the involvement of a cohort of 72 5th-to-7th graders and their families recruited from the Rochester City School District, Rush-Henrietta School District, West Irondequoit School District and Genesee Community Charter School. The families will actively contribute to the project development. RIT students and faculty will help serve as a bridge to the children and their families.

“RIT students are excited to share their scientific and technical knowledge and passion with families and school systems in our community,” says Stefi Baum, director of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at RIT. “In turn, they will learn and gain invaluable experience working with the families and RMSC staff. As a team, we will bring our diverse skills and perspectives together to create experiences featuring NASA’s achievements that will inspire students and their families to question, inquire, explore and embrace the future of scientific discovery and innovation.”

“RIT really understands our mission,” says Calvin Uzelmeier, Rochester Museum & Science Center director of education. “In addition to their expertise and enthusiasm, they are eager to shape these new experiences with the collaboration of the children and families we serve. With our panel of local and national advisors, we will learn family entry points to science and technology.”

“We want to expose a whole new generation of youth to STEM careers and NASA, and to create an environment for them to pursue those interests,” says Jacob Noel-Storr, assistant research professor in RIT’s Center for Imaging Science and director of the Insight Lab for Science Outreach and Learning Research. Noel-Storr, president of the Association for Astronomy Education, is a nationally recognized evaluator of NASA Family Science Nights. Rochester Museum & Science Center will add the NASA Family Day events into its annual offerings and will share results with other museums and planetariums.