2011 Year in Review

A monumental era of our country's long history of spaceflight ended in 2011 with the last flight of the space shuttle program. When Atlantis landed on July 21, it marked the 135th space shuttle flight and the end of a program stretching over 30 years. There were 355 astronauts and cosmonauts, 49 of whom were women, hailing from 16 countries who rode the shuttle. And that includes 14 astronauts tragically lost during the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

The irony of the shuttle's last flight is its coming in a year in which the Challenger Learning Center at the Center for Educational Technologies helped celebrate an important anniversary. Jan. 28 marked the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy. But from that horrific event grew the Challenger Center for Space Science Education founded later in 1986 by the families of the seven astronauts lost. The families wanted to continue the educational spirit of the last Challenger mission by developing Challenger Learning Centers worldwide to engage students in science and mathematics education. In 1994 our Challenger Learning Center opened in the brand new Erma Ora Byrd Center for Educational Technologies.

In January we celebrated the success of the Challenger Learning Centers with an event featuring a former astronaut and state and local dignitaries and the grand opening of our new Micronauts learning lab for young children.

The Challenger celebration kicked off a year full of positive news as the Center for Educational Technologies continued to grow and nurture existing projects and plant the seeds for future ones. And with our mission to create quality educational materials, provide expertise in melding technology and learning, and drive research in the field of educational technology, we reached not only younger audiences, but older learners as well, including more than 30,000 students and hundreds of teachers. For instance, one of our highlights was a project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developing and managing a safety training event involving a large dam in Southern West Virginia. That event brought together emergency responders and Corps engineers from throughout the state. We also created training materials on dust management and other safety topics for coal miners. And we received funding for two other projects in 2012 that will carry on our work toward making coal mining safer.

Our ongoing research into videogame design resulted in an international award for the second time in three years. We continued our long-time work with NASA and grew our partnerships with other major players in the education and research fields, such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Bringing the year to a close was the annual robotics tournament we manage, which this year brought more than 1,100 people from throughout West Virginia under one roof, the largest tournament we've ever held.

The year featured plenty of other news among our various projects. To check out what we've been up to, follow the links at left. You'll see how we carry on the educational spirit of the Challenger astronauts in all that we work on.
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