ITHACA, N.Y. — Katy Kaufman and her biology and physical science
teacher Pam Vaughan from the town of Fordyce High School in Arkansas
will set up a tent with displays about comets at the annual Fordyce
on the Cottonbelt Festival. Meghan Cammilleri and her teacher Michael
Stapleton at Northwestern Middle School, Regional School District No.
7 in Winsted, Conn., will write a children’s book about comets and
give copies to local libraries, schools and planetariums.

Both students and their teachers submitted two of the four winning
entries in a national competition sponsored by NASA’s Comet Nucleus
Tour (CONTOUR) space mission and Cornell University. The two other
winning teams were from schools in Buffalo, N.Y., and Guffey, Colo.

The space agency and Cornell had challenged students and their
teachers in the United States to participate in the spacecraft’s
exploration of comets. The winning teams, two from a high school and
two from a middle school and each consisting of a teacher and a
student, will each receive $1,000 and attend the mission launch
scheduled for July 1.

The CONTOUR mission is being managed by the Applied Physics
Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University, with Cornell’s Department
of Astronomy leading the international science team. As part of
Cornell’s educational outreach for the mission, students and their
teachers were challenged to devise a program to educate and involve
their communities about CONTOUR’s goal to study at least two comets
as they travel through the inner solar system. The spacecraft will
provide the closest look ever at a comet’s nucleus.

Laura Lautz, the mission’s education and public outreach coordinator
at Cornell, said proposals were received from 22 states. "The contest
was very competitive, and the evaluation committee was very impressed
with all the entries. All winners and runners-up should be proud of
their accomplishments," she said. Winners were chosen by a panel of
educators and scientists on the basis of the originality and
feasibility of the submitted plans, she said.

The four students and their teachers will travel to Kennedy Space
Center at Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Fla., where they will watch the
launch, meet CONTOUR scientists, take part in a variety of pre-launch
educational events, tour the Kennedy Space Center and attend a
briefing by scientists and engineers. Each team will be allowed a
budget of up to $1,000 for its educational program and receive a kit
of mission materials.

The 33 runners-up (12 from high schools, 21 from middle schools) will
receive the kit of materials to help them follow through with their
plans. They also will be able to watch the launch on their computers
via web streaming and to ask questions of mission scientists
following the launch.

Fordyce sophomore Kaufman calls her proposal "Comets on the
Cottonbelt," and she and her teacher plan to take advantage of the
town’s annual festival to set up a tent with demonstrations of how to
make a model comet, with comet facepainting, a video and a
question-and-answer session. They also plan to make presentations to
groups at the Dallas County Museum and to teachers at various

Junior Andrea Sease and her biology teacher, Marilou Bebak, at Nardin
Academy High School in Buffalo, N.Y., call their proposal "Cool
Comets. " At the Buffalo Museum of Science, where Sease has a
part-time job with the Astronomy Department and Bebak works part-time
in astronomy education, they plan a hands-on public presentation on
comets and the mission. Their audience will be museum visitors, Scout
troops and teachers. They also plan a comet section for the Nardin
Academy and Buffalo Museum of Science web sites.

Cammilleri, who is in grade 8 at Northwestern Middle School, and
Stapleton, her social studies/geography/history teacher, plan to
donate copies of their children’s book on CONTOUR and comets to local
libraries, schools, and planetariums. Included in the book will be
material for a teacher’s lesson plan on comets. The two also will
read from the book at the New Hartford Library during children’s
story hour.

Matthew Smith, who is in grade 8 at the town of Guffey Community
Charter School in Colorado, and his science teacher Chris Peterson,
call their proposal, "Rural Space Science Challenge." They plan a
community meeting at their school to talk about the CONTOUR mission
and their launch experiences. They also plan talks at the Denver
Museum and to build a web site. Smith is building a collector for
micrometeorites, tiny silicate and iron particles that fall to earth
when space debris enters the atmosphere.

Related World Wide Web sites: The following site provides
additional information on this news release. It is not part of the
Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over its
content or availability.

  • Comet Nucleus Tour:

    Contact: David Brand
    Cornell University News Service

    Office: 607-255-3651