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PR Students Win Top NASA Award

September 24, 2006

Public relations students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication claimed victory at the NASA Means Business competition for the third year in a row.

NASA Means Business is a national, year-long competition facilitated by the Texas Space Grant Consortium. College undergraduate and graduate students develop an innovative program that better promotes science and mathematics education to middle and high school students. Entries include traditional “space disciplines” and others not typically related to NASA, such as journalism, public relations and marketing. NASA chooses the best program for implementation.

ASU Cronkite faculty and students involved in the NASA Means Business competition are part of the Arizona Students Present Interesting Research to Everyone (ASPIRE) group, which also includes faculty and students from the Art Institute of Phoenix. The ASPIRE team developed a strategic communications plan, Web site and public service announcements that resulted in this year’s winning program.

“The strategic communication plan is very helpful in establishing NASA’s goals and objectives,” said Gary Kitmacher, NASA’s mission manager of communications for the International Space Station Program. “The students frequently bring forward innovative ideas and identify aspects of the program that are important to the public, especially to the younger generation.”

ASPIRE presented its communications plan to top leadership at NASA headquarters in Washington on Sept. 20.

In previous years, the ASPIRE team has had great success in the NASA Means Business program. In 2005, ASPIRE’s winning PSAs aired during the American Astronautical Society Conference, on NASA TV and in the visitor’s center at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In 2004 and 2005, ASPIRE’s PSAs won top awards from WorldFest Houston International Film Festival and an Accolade competition in 2006. The PSAs are in English, Spanish and Russian.

A behind-the-scenes documentary created by the 2004 ASPIRE group is currently under review and will potentially air this fall on NASA TV.

Team leader, Ben Higgins, presented the group’s work at the 2005 American Astronautical Society Conference and was also selected to serve as a NASA representative on a 10-person delegation who lobbied members of Congress.

“This competition is unique in that it brings students together across disciplines for a common objective. It’s an activity not normally done in academic and professional arenas,” said Higgins, who led the 2005 and 2006 teams and graduated from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering in August with a degree in aerospace engineering.

Past ASPIRE members pursued employment inspired by their experience. Lisa Tidwell works on the Phoenix Mars Mission based at University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. Andrew DeSouza is a press relations coordinator for Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., in Washington.

“The competition challenges students to transform every bit of classroom knowledge they have acquired into real world solutions. It links all forms of communication with creativity and action,” said Dr. Frances Matera, ASU Cronkite associate professor and advisor to the ASPIRE team.

The 2006 ASPIRE team included Matera and Cronkite students Andra Corrin Lewis, Kacie Sumner, Kathryn Burnett, Nicole Phelan, Holly Campbell, Andrew Moe.