Astronaut Helps Launch Science and Math Education Competition for Teachers

The Science Everywhere Innovation Challenge
The Science Everywhere Innovation Challenge calls on science teachers to come up with projects that will get kids excited about science and math outside the classroom. (Image credit:

Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin — a veteran of two space shuttle missions to build the International Space Station — will judge a new online fundraising competition to support science education beyond the classroom.

Melvin will co-judge the Science Everywhere Innovation Challenge, a competition that calls on teachers to submit ideas for projects that can inspire students to learn about math and science outside of school. Later this summer, the panel will select five winning projects that will each receive $5,000. 

But even teachers who don't win the final prizes can raise money for their projects. Participants must post their ideas to, where members of the public can donate to support the projects. Those funds will then be matched by the Science Everywhere sponsors, the Overdeck Family Foundation and the Simons Foundation. The two groups have committed to giving up to $450,000 in matching funds, along with the five prizes of $5,000 each. 

"My parents were educators who inspired me and so many others to reach for the stars," said Melvin, who flew on STS-122 and STS-129, in a statement. "I want to honor their legacy by partnering with and Science Everywhere to help unlock these teachers' great science ideas, to inspire our next generation of STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math] explorers."

Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin reads to first and third grade students from the book “The Moon Over Star” at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School in Washington, D.C. while serving as NASA's associate administrator for education in 2011. Melvin retired from NASA in 2014. (Image credit: Carla Cioff/NASA)

The 12-person judging panel consists of six national leaders in math and science education and outreach (including Melvin) and six "science ambassador" teachers. Other high-profile members of the panel include football wide receiver Victor Cruz, a free agent formerly with the New York Giants; Cruz's personal foundation is focused on getting kids into careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Another panelist is "Science Bob" Pflugfelder, a television personality who has appeared on shows such as "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and Nickelodeon's "Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn."


Teachers can submit their proposals until Friday, March 24, at Funds will continue to be matched until the $450,000 cap is reached. You can support the projects by visiting this page on the website.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace, or @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+. Original article on&  

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: