The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have some of the best scientists in the world, with many striving to create a better understanding of the atmosphere and environment. While the organization always strives to improve a general understanding of the environment and the methods used to predict it, there is one group of scientists working to make it as simple as possible. You won’t find detailed schematics or pages and pages of formulas here; instead it’s simple drawings, drawn characters and even cartoons. The effort is called SciJinks which is short for Science Hijinks. Simple and easy to understand, SciJinks is designed to educate middle and high school aged children and their educators about science.
These aren’t the only organizations working to increase the understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). A number of STEM advocacy organizations exist to help promote the STEM fields across all ages. It is found that despite the United States developing into a global leader due to its advances in science and technology, there is a lack of students who are interested in the STEM fields. This is why programs have been implemented to increase the understanding of students and teachers in these vital fields. As an example, a meteorologist on the Weatherboy team served as an advisor to DataStreme Atmosphere. DataStreme Atmosphere developed a curriculum using NOAA data for teachers who’d be able to pass along a knowledge of basic meteorology onto their students. The NOAA/NASA program, in partnership with the American Meteorological Society (AMS), had a main goal of increasing the promotion of the earth sciences to younger students who may possibly be inspired to peruse a career in a STEM field.
With a similar goal in mind, it comes as no surprise that the SciJinks team would introduce something special to go along with the multi-billion dollar GOES-R weather satellite program. GOES-R, now known as GOES-16 after entering geostationary orbit, launched into space in November 2016. When it enters regular service in 2017, it’ll provide meteorologists and other earth scientists with sophisticated, detailed data and imagery to improve not only forecast accuracy, but our understanding of the environment too. SciJinks developed a cartoon character and animation series to educate future scientists on the GOES-R program.
Lauren Gaches works as the communication and outreach liaison for the satellite programs at NOAA. She had a leading role in developing the cartoon and had a chance to answer some of our questions about the SciJinks GOES-R effort.
Who created the GOES-R cartoon and why?
The SciJinks team developed the cartoon in support of the broader SciJinks website; the cartoon was created to be an interactive and engaging way to talk about the GOES-R satellite along with satellite weather operations before, during and after the launch.
How would you describe the workflow in creating a simple comic page or cartoon episode?
The SciJinks team develops the graphics and animation while working closely with the GOES-R program office which includes scientists and engineers to ensure accuracy. The voice is provided by a voice over artist.
Who is the target audience?
The target audience is kids in grades Kindergarten through Eight Grade and beyond who can learn about the GOES-R satellite through its easy to understand approach. Even with that target audience in mind we actually have many adults who appreciate the simple explanations and straightforward approach of the cartoon GOES-R. A number of meteorologists in the broadcast field have expressed interest in new material given they use what we have provided so far when speaking to younger students about science and weather.
Are the scientists you work with and consult intrigued by the fact that a cartoon will represent their research and hard work?
The work of our science team and their role in the broader satellite meteorology and science community extends far beyond the role of the cartoon, but the cartoon is a fun way to engage kids on the topic of satellite meteorology to build interest in STEM subjects.
You can see SciJinks and their effort for GOES-R here: http://scijinks.jpl.nasa.gov/goes-r/