A Collaborative National Center for Fusion & Plasma Research

CLOuDS: Classroom Leadership: Operating in µ-gravity while Discovering Science

The CLOµDS program is currently on hiatus due to a lack of funding. 

CLOµDS is a professional development program which enables K-12 educators to experience the scientific process at its finest. Teams of educators are asked to propose an experiment to be performed aboard NASA’s ‘Weightless Wonder’ - an airplane which flies in a parabolic flight path in order to simulate microgravity. (See how it works here). Through a three year agreement with NASA, PPPL is able to facilitate this research-based professional development experience for teachers.  

The professional development program is unique in its multifaceted nature; educators are asked to propose, design, build, test, and analyze data from an experiment of their own. On top of this, they are given the challenge of bringing this experience back to the classroom in a way which will inspire their students for years to come. 

Once the proposals are accepted, the teams begin to build their experiments. After rigorous testing to ensure that the experiments meet the high safety and engineering standards set by NASA, the teams travel to the Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX to prepare for the flight. 

After a final round of thorough inspections by NASA, the approved experiments are loaded onto the Zero-g plane. Each experiment is flown twice over the course of one flight week to allow for the maximum amount of data to be collected. 

Throughout the experience, educators are challenged to design curricula which incorporate their own experiments as well as those of the other participating teams into their classrooms. The teams are also given the opportunity to participate in facility tours of NASA and hear from different departments within NASA during professional development programs and talks. 

Following the flight week, teams present their work and analyses at PPPL’s annual end-of-summer poster session. The analysis of each team’s data is posted on the program site (clouds.pppl.gov) to be accessed by the public. 

Participating teachers receive classroom visits from PPPL staff, which allow us to observe how the experiments and the experience are being incorporated into the curricula. 

The 2011 flight week was July 24th through the 29th and was very successful. The teams are eager to share their experimental data and ideas for incorporating the experience into their classrooms. 

CLOuDS: 2011 Campaign

For more information, see clouds.pppl.gov.

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