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Greencastle teacher judging nationally televised science contest

October 10, 2008

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Greencastle-Antrim earth science teacher Tara Clopper spent last year as an educational specialist and liaison to NASA's Astrophysics, Heliophysics and Planetary Science Divisions at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Among the many things she was tasked with, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge was one of her favorites. Themed "The Science of Space," initial planning by Clopper and Marci Delaney of the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus began in March.

The culminating event took place this past week at Goddard Space Flight Center. Last Sunday, Clopper and Delaney hosted the lunar challenge. In this challenge, finalists constructed, modified and operated a system capable of providing a one-sixth gravity simulation experience.

In the large NASA centrifuge lab, a dummy was strapped into a lunar saddle and traveled 100 feet via an overhead gantry system to perform simple tasks as might be experienced on the moon.

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On Monday, Clopper served as one of the judges during the live taping of the challenges by the Discovery Channel film crew. Of her television experience, Clopper remarked, "This event opened my eyes to the world of production and all of the time and effort involved in creating a two-hour television show."

According to the Web site, Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is the premier national science competition for students in grades 5 through 8. The Young Scientist Challenge is designed to encourage the exploration of science among America's youth and to promote the importance of science communication.

In 1999, Discovery Communications LLC launched the competition to nurture the next generation of American scientists at a critical age when interest in science begins to decline. Over the past nine years, more than 540,000 middle school students have been nominated to participate in the competition, and winners have gone on to speak in front of members of Congress, work with the nation's top scientists and pursue academic careers in the sciences.

Clopper is back teaching at Greencastle-Antrim High School and she brings with her a world of knowledge and excitement from her NASA experience. An edited version of the two-day Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge will air Jan. 18 on the Science Channel. The show will air on the Discovery Channel's sister channels after Jan. 18.

For more information on the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge, visit http://youngscientist.discoveryeducation.com/

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