PSI will receive $2.6 million as a team member on a five-year, NASA-funded effort to invite the world to join in exploring our universe by enabling everyday people to help NASA scientists make new discoveries.

PSI will provide professional development to formal and informal educators to help students engage with current NASA data. Additionally, PSI will lead an effort to increase the number of astronomy related science fair projects, locally in Arizona and across the nation. PSI scientists will recruit and support NASA scientists to include their data in CosmoQuest (, a virtual research facility, to ensure public participation in up to date space science research.

CosmoQuest is led by Pamela Gay at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and brings together scientists, educators, and software developers from eight collaborating institutions and numerous additional partners. Gay is the Principal Investigator on the project.

PSI participants are Education Specialist and Research Scientist Sanlyn Buxner, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist Jennifer Grier, Education Specialist Andrea Jones and Senior Education Specialist Larry Lebofsky.

“This project offers fun and exciting ways for the public to directly engage with the process of science. They become a critical piece of the process, collecting the data that eventually leads to a better understanding of our cosmos and the world around us,” Grier said. “It’s about much more than just having fun. Working with CosmoQuest develops critical thinking skills, and enhances overall science literacy.”

PSI also hopes to increase planetary-related science fair projects. In Tucson, with all its astronomy activity, less than 1 percent of the projects seen at the annual Southern Arizona Research, Science, and Engineering Fair are space science related. This is typical across the nation.

“Through one component of CosmoQuest, we will provide teachers and scientists nationally with the tools to help engage students with background science content, activities, and ideas for space-science related research projects that could lead to good science fair projects,” Lebofsky said. “Maybe some of these students will continue with their interest in space science and go on to be our next generation of explorers.”

“I am delighted to be a part of CosmoQuest, inviting teachers, students, the country, and the world to engage in the excitement of NASA science and exploration–and to make meaningful contributions to our quest for knowledge about the Solar System, and beyond,” Jones, based in Arlington, Va., said.

This cooperative agreement also funds team members at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, InsightSTEM, Interface Guru, Lawrence Hall of Science, Johnson Space Center, McREL International, McDonald Observatory, and Youngstown State University.