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This project was submitted by an applicant to the Digital Media and Learning Competition.

NASA Robotics Badges


B. Badges

1.    Content

NASA Robotics Collaboration and Communication includes a broad range of opportunities for badging NASA’s educational activities and projects. For instance, teachers in NASA’s Electronic Professional Development Network robotics courses could receive teamwork and communication badges for each course. At the completion of at least two courses, educators could apply to be NASA Robotics Collaboration and Communication Mentors. Mentors who fully participate in a weeklong event such as the NASATalk NXT Robotics Tweetup would earn the Master Educator Badge.

Teachers in educator teams at NASA Explorer Schools can share badgeable activities with their students, such as NASA’s RealWorld-InWorld Robonaut 2 Engineering Design Challenge. The RealWorld problem-solving portion requires about 10 one-hour sessions. About ten teams advance to the InWorld phase of online mentoring from university engineering students. All RealWorld teams that complete submissions will earn the Robonaut 2 Real World Collaboration badge. Teams that complete phase two – working in the protected National Institute of Aerospace Virtual World - will also earn  InWorld Communication badges.

Summer of Innovation students and educators who complete five NASA robotics activities such as End Effector, Rover Races, and Remote Vehicle, mixed with learning about the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity Mars exploration missions will earn NASA Robotics Collaboration Level 1 badge. Students who blog about their experience, including images or YouTube videos, will also earn the NASA Robotics Communication Level 1 badges.

2.      Skills

NASA activities have clearly stated objectives. These are met through creation of deliverables or through participation in distance communication activities. Educators sign off on participating students achieving satisfactory levels. A living searchable website of NASA badges will be created to which objectives or achievement criteria will be added, so that anyone may see requirements to achieve a badge, and also see related badges.

3.      Discrete vs. dynamic

These badges will predominantly be discrete, however as students become more advanced by participating in NASA competitions or internships, the system will also become dynamic in terms of tracking more significant performances.

4.      Qualifications

Classroom educators and youth group leaders will evaluate acceptable achievement levels by students involved in class or group activities. Individuals may be evaluated by “mentors” - advanced students or educators who have achieved highly in that area. A Mentor Training Blog will assist mentors in giving constructive feedback. All mentors will require two certified references (e.g., from teachers or principals).

5.      Role and Identity

As students work up to highest levels, they will be prompted with additional activities of that type and shown how close they are to achieving top levels. Top level achievers will be invited to become mentors. Badge series will be supplied by the NASA teams providing the badging criteria.

6.      Level

Minimal levels of communication, like participation in a teleconference, would receive Level 1 Communication badges. More advanced final products, like posting comments with documentation and/or images from a completed activity to a blog would receive a Level 3 badge, and finally publishing a Do-It-Yourself podcast or posting a YouTube video on Robots in Space Exploration would receive a high level badge, e.g., Level 5. Level 1 badges are proposed for single and short-term activities. They are easy enough to achieve that they motivate students to seek more advanced badges.

7.      Opportunities and privileges

Accumulating high level badges indicates a level of achievement that NASA can use to assist in its selection of competitive interns. Mentors will be selected upon application and review of subject-specific entries. For instance, a student who has posted several communications blogs and has responded in a professional manner to blog entries of other students may earn a Mentor badge after completing online training involving simulations of different types of blog entries. Previous NASA educational activity reviewers and graduates of the NASA ePDN Robotics courses are good candidates for the first round of mentors. A certain number of entries as a mentor would qualify educators to earn different levels of NASA Robotics Educator badges.

8.      Performance / Assessment

Student performance on NASA activities will be assessed by supervising educators if receiving credit for a class activity, group leaders for a youth group activity, and by mentors recruited from the Robotics Course graduates, other NASA educator communities, and high level student “mentors”.

9.  Permanence

Once a badge is in a backpack, it won’t be removed unless deleted by the owner. Badges should be identifiable by their graphics and reference website that match the content. Even if projects change over time, earned achievements aren’t removed.

10.      Portability

Once an individual has achieved a badge as certified by educators, youth group leaders, or certified mentors, the badges will automatically be transmitted to student backpacks. Each badge will be linked to its criteria.

11.      Design

NASA graphics specific to the activity with be artistically arranged by our graphic designer and approved by NASA to ensure appropriate brand recognition. Badge categories will have multiple levels, with the same image in a series of related badges. Each badge will include a level number and will be linked to its criteria.

12.      Transparency / Meaning

As in 11 above, graphics will be content specific and a living website of NASA badge criteria will be created. As new badges are created, the site will grow.

13.      Protection

Using names of children in public websites such as the backpack is not consistent with child privacy laws. Presumably Mozilla will determine a procedure to use a pseudonym or other ID. Schools and youth groups may list badge earners internally. A discussion should begin of a protected backpack/place to keep underage youth badges (such as a password protected school website or backpack) until students are of a legal age and complete an online request for them to be displayed in the more public forum–such as Facebook.

A password-protected site combined with pseudonyms could be created on NASATalk or elsewhere where students seeking communications badges can post blog entries. Communications are expected to combine images, text explanations, and YouTube or other video support. Mentors and Master Educators given access to the site–to respond to blog communications and acknowledge badge criteria have been met–will only see the pseudonyms.

14.      Endorsement

NASA will select its badgeable activities and provide the badge criteria and levels associated with each activity or activity cluster, and participate in the graphic design of the badges. It’s hard to imagine a higher endorsement value than NASA, but there are respected robotics communities such as FLL and Botball and youth groups such as Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H, Girls and Boys Clubs of America, YMCA, and YWCA. There may be badges where multiple branding may serve as an indicator of the content and achievement. E.g., 4-H might offer a robotics badge incorporating several NASA activities, thus a NASA/4-H image for the series might be appropriate.

C.      Technology

1.      Issuing

Our badges will adhere to the "Open Badge Infrastructure" as designed and implemented by Mozilla. We will create our own website/application to submit the badges earned by learners to the Open Badge backpack. This system will be designed to work in harmony with any/all standards implemented by Mozilla including full meta-data tagging embed into badge graphics.

2.      Interoperability

Once an individual has achieved a badge as validated by educators, youth group leaders, or certified mentors, the badge will automatically be transmitted to student backpacks. We will also allow our learners to share their achievement in other ways: e.g. printable badges/certificates, and Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/website banners that will display badges earned. Note that the gear design of the badges allows intermeshing of multiple badges as they are earned so they cluster together. 

3.      Software and widgets to issue / display badges

We will custom design/code our own site for issuing/displaying badges. The site will utilize open-source php and mysql and the qoob cms framework for a custom experience we can tweak to cater exactly to the learners (as well as connecting with the "Open Badge Infrastructure"). 

D. Team Expertise

1. Meri Cummings–science curriculum writer and former NASA Educational Product Review Manager–will work with NASA organizations to ensure that badge criteria are good matches. Cummings will also develop a mentor training blog, and place it on NASATalk, which will also provide a forum for students to communicate about NASA activities. Cummings is the author of several blogs and collaboratives on the NASATalk website, and has interacted with hundreds of educators during NASA reviews across the country. She has also taught numerous NASA / robotics activities in informal settings, and is a graduate of the NASA ePDN robotics course series.

2. Our experienced graphic artist will work with NASA activity teams to develop artwork for badges, and our programmers will ensure a robust framework for submitting approved badges to the Mozilla backpack. 



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