TTU Contest lets Upper Cumberland students ask shuttle astronaut a question

Students from college to kindergarten have the chance to ask an Atlantis space shuttle astronaut – including Tennessee Tech University alumnus Barry Wilmore – a question while the crew is working aboard the International Space Station during its November mission.

The Millard Oakley STEM Center is sponsoring the “Soaring Eagle Question Contest” for students in the Upper Cumberland.  Winners will ask questions through a live NASA education downlink on TTU’s campus scheduled for Nov. 22.

Students will be divided into four age groups and five winners will be chosen from each group: kindergarten to fourth grade, fifth grade to eighth grade, ninth to 12th grade and college.

TTU students majoring in any subject are encouraged to submit questions.

TTU judges will make a blind selection of 30 questions from each age group and rank them. Then, the top five questions in each group will be sent to NASA for review.

The 20 winners will sit on stage in TTU’s Nursing and Health Services Building and ask their questions directly to the astronauts via a live video feed. K-12 winners will be able to invite an adult to the event.

What’s the first rule for writing a winning question?  Organizers say if you could ask the same question of an astronaut standing on the ground, try again.

“Go for questions where the answer can be demonstrated by the astronaut,” said Sally Pardue, Oakley STEM Center interim director.

The winning questions will be unusual and closely linked to some aspect of working in microgravity environments.

Tennessee Tech alumnus Barry Wilmore is piloting the mission.

The Atlantis is scheduled to launch Nov. 16, but because shuttle launches are often delayed by weather, the downlink is subject to rescheduling.

The contest entry deadline is Sunday, Oct. 25. Invitations and winners will be announced on Oct. 29. Entries can be made online.

Events, including the live video feed from the International Space Station and students talking with astronauts, will be broadcast live on WCTE-TV (channel10 on Charter cable or 22 on Dish/Direct/Antenna.)

Find out more about shuttle pilot and TTU alumnus Barry Wilmore.

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