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KLASS Act: A NASA Simulation

Space Shuttle Lauch - NASA

A few years ago, Chuck Lostroscio, a NASA software engineer, figured there had to be a better way to show middle school kids real-life applications of the abstract math and science concepts they were learning. So, Lostroscio reconfigured the simulation software NASA used to train Space Shuttle astronauts and created a computer game-like tool to help students learn how they might one day apply their math, science and engineering lessons, according to TechNewsDaily (TND). It’s called the Kennedy Launch Academy Simulation System, or KLASS, and it requires students to play a mission control engineer for a simulated shuttle launch.

Students use their math and science know-how to oversee the vehicle’s engine and fuel tanks, monitor the astronauts’s vital signs and determine if weather conditions are too risky for a launch. KLASS neatly incorporates actual atmospheric, medical and engineering data culled from past launches into a number of scenarios devised by the agency’s educational advisors. Each scenario presents students with a different set of problems that require them to use a variety of math and science skills.

Kids become so engrossed, Lostroscio tells TND, that some have run outside, expecting to see their rocket shoot off into the skies. “It gets pretty immersive,” he says. KLASS software is open-source and free to download from NASA’s website. A school must have a Linux-capable central computer to run it, and a network of Windows-enabled PCs for the students to work on. It can accommodate five to 30 pupils at a time. A KLASS act, indeed.

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