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NASA Robotics Badges

NASA Office of Education
Digital Badges Collaborator Proposal



NASA Education is committed to advancing high quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education using NASA’s unique assets.  The National Research Council in 2008 stated that "NASA has a unique and important role to play in motivating and inspiring students to consider STEM careers and citizens to become more knowledgeable participants in the scientific arena."  NASA missions are a natural means of interacting with the public and supporting students and educators, and engaging the public in its work has been part of NASA's culture since its founding. 

Furthermore, NASA’s extensive use of emerging technology is at the center of the Agency’s mission to understand our planet and the universe around us. These are real tools that NASA uses on a regular basis in its work. NASA Education continually explores where innovative strategies might be identified to reach educators and students, improve STEM retention, and engage community colleges and minority-serving institutions.

The NASA Office of Education recognizes the educational values inherent in the Open Badges initiative.  Rewarding students’ learning accomplishments and assisting them in assuming responsibility for their own educational development is directly aligned with the Agency’s focus on inquiry-based approaches to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM education.   NASA has developed several long-standing projects that seek to optimize learning though existing and emerging digital technologies. 

NASA Education has conducted an assessment of activities, interests, and needs by the national K-12 projects and has identified the collaboration and communication as two themes for constructing NASA’s initial digital badge set.  NASA is interested in work alongside a partner in the design, development and implementation of a digital badge infrastructure.  The focus for this initial badging project shall be on robotics for middle-high school students.

Three technology-focused education projects are well positioned to lead this work for NASA Education -- Learning Environments and Research Network (LEARN), Learning Technologies Project (LTP) and the NASA Educational Technology Services Project (NETS).  The three project managers are prepared to form the core team under this initiative.  These managers have the technical and education expertise necessary and have close relationships with Agency’s mission directorates for content identification and with the Agency K-12 projects well aligned for incorporating badges.  


Learning Content

NASA is well-known for its robotics efforts over the more than 50 years since the Agency began.  Knowledge of our solar system and universe has increased exponentially with each near-Earth and deep-space mission.  Indeed, in their 33-year journey, Voyagers 1 &2 are even now close to the edge of the Heliosphere as they approach interstellar space beyond the Sun’s influence.  Teamwork is a fundamental requirement for all of NASA’s missions especially in the area of robotics where a diverse array of talents, skills, and disciplines is necessary for success.  Our proposal seeks to develop a Teamwork Badge with a focus on robotics.  Future NASA Teamwork Digital Badges could be developed to focus on other mission and research areas.

Many of NASA’s K-12 Projects highlight robotics among other disciplines within their various lessons and activities. The K-12 Project Managers work closely as a unit and thus, under this endeavor, have established a working group to provide guidance to  NASA’s core technology teams and selected badge designer/developer in defining a competency-based collection. Through cooperative agreements with universities and other organizations, NASA has formed partnerships that advance its educational objectives.  A few partners working directly with K-12 projects include the National Science Teachers Association, Oklahoma State University, Penn State University, Georgia Tech, and Wheeling Jesuit University.  These partners contribute to the Agency’s ever-growing body of research, knowledge, and discoveries to enhance formal and informal learning environments using pedagogically effective methodologies.  A concise summary on a few projects and associated web sites are listed in  Appendix I.  NASA intends to explore potential connections with other federal agencies such as 4-H - U. S. Dept. of Agriculture for the purpose of determining synergies that would lead to the development of common standards and equivalences.

NASA will integrate a Collaboration (Group) Badge and a Communication (Individual) Badge in Robotics into existing K-12 projects.  The initial challenge shall be to clearly define expectations and levels of engagement and accomplishment that could be shared among a number of projects.  

The NASA Collaboration Badge for robotic activities encourages students to work in teams to explore and build skills essential for successful careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM.  An example of  a collaboration activity is Mission Preparation from NASA’s BEST (Beginning Engineering Science and Technology).  Students must collaborate to calibrate and guide a human acting as a robot through a series of obstacles. ( ).  Collaboration to build and improve upon a robotic crane in the Heavy Lifter activity from the On the Moon guide is an example of a more advanced activity ( ).  The RealWorld-InWorld (RWIW) NASA Engineering Design Challenge is an activity where students in grades 7-12 work collaboratively as engineers and scientists to solve real-world problems related to Robonaut 2 (R2).  RWIW is an example of a longer duration activity ( ).


The NASA Communication Badge focuses on the 21st Century Skill of Communication using robotics content with students while concentrating on articulating their knowledge through listening, writing, and presenting using a variety of media and technologies.  For example, a student may produce a robotics blog, podcast, digital storybook, live presentation, video, etc. Badge levels might be determined by the complexity of the communication strategies and technologies used. One example is the DIY Podcast: Robots ( Another example is participating in a DLN: Spacebots event (


Various descriptions and scenarios about NASA robotics education activities are listed in Appendix II.

The anticipated outcome would be a badge collection piloted no later than fourth quarter of fiscal year 2012 by subset of K-12 projects; with results contributing towards scaling across multiple projects during fiscal year 2013.  NASA shall seek expansion of the badges system based upon the assessment and lessons learned from a full year of implementation into its K-12 projects.  Internal and external strategic partners shall be invited to contribute to the second badge collection.


Technical Considerations

NASA does not have an open badge system.  It has begun investigating the technical requirements with Mozilla and has initiated contact a few Federal Agencies already engaged in this area to seek guidance in the development of a system.  The technical cost for establishing this system is still unknown.  NASA is committed to strategically deploying resources and shall continue to assess the technical and personnel requirements.  The intent of NASA is to develop an open badges system that is interoperable with the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure. 

NASA does use a number of technical systems to support learner interaction and assessment.  For example, the INSPIRE project maintains a learning management system; the NETS team runs interactive, Flash-based games at the NASA Kid’s Club site; NASA Explorer Schools interacts with teachers through Liferay Portal software; and NASA’s Portal services are provided by a third party vendor.  Understanding the technical requirements and resources necessary to build an open badge system shall be a necessary first step. 

The following are important considerations that shall need to be addressed under the development of the system:  1) Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ( Any software or tools developed or implemented for a NASA badge system must be fully compliant; and 2) Privacy, accessibility and age restriction issues. NASA requirements and guidance for online systems can be found at


Branding Considerations

NASA is uniquely positioned to contribute to STEM education programs and to the open badges initiative. NASA may be the most publicly recognizable Federal agency and has enormous public access through print, television, and Web-based media. This means that NASA has the capability to inspire students in a way that other education-supporting agencies cannot.

There are so many things that compete for the attention of students, and our challenge is to ignite a passion for STEM education.  Part of this challenge is in reaching students, and the people who most influence them, with products and services that will attract learners into STEM careers.  We use the exciting content and results from our missions to develop products and services that support students, educators and national STEM initiatives.  With our resources we foster development of public-private partnerships—collaborations that build communities to support STEM education and provide stability through times of economic growth or decline.  We work cooperatively with universities, professional education societies, national and state-based organizations, and states and school districts to ensure that our products and services continue to meet the evolving needs of formal and informal educators and students, both in and out of the classroom.  

The NASA Insignia is one of the most recognizable images in the world (more commonly referred to as the "meatball") and reflects the history and tradition of the Agency and is used in all of the Agency's day-to-day communications materials. Designed in 1959, the NASA Insignia contains the following elements:

  • The sphere represents a planet
  • The stars represent space
  • The vector represents aeronautics
  • The orbit represents space travel

The use of the NASA insignia in the actual badge shall need to be approved.  It is but one emblem of NASA, so if the insignia is not available for building within the badge design, then other images shall be investigated.  Participants who earn NASA-related badges will experience a particularly meaningful sense of accomplishment.  It is anticipated that other collaborators under the Digital Badges Initiative shall also seek synergy with NASA given the increased recognition gained by collaborators in sharing an alliance with the US Space Agency.







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