Two Emmy Award Nominations Announced for NIA/NASA Productions

Two Emmy Award Nominations Announced for NIA/NASA Productions

The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced Monday, May 13, that two programs produced by the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) for NASA have been nominated for 2013 Emmy® Awards. The Emmy Award is the premier television production award presented in various sectors of the television industry, including entertainment programming, instructional, news and documentary shows, and sports programming.

NASA 360™ was nominated in the “Informational/Instructional – Program Special” category for: “NASA 360: Robots, Rocks & Rovers,” a 30-minute public outreach program that highlights how the NASA’s Centennial Challenges program promotes technical innovation and taps the nation’s ingenuity to make revolutionary advances in technology of value to NASA and the nation.” Timothy J. Allen, Scott Bednar and Tom Shortridge produce the NASA 360 series. Rebecca (Becky) Jaramillo is the Project Coordinator and Senior Educator for the series and Harla Sherwood is the Principle Investigator.
NASA eClips™ was nominated for: “NASA Launchpad: History, Benefits, And Safety of Radioisotope Power Systems.” The segment, nominated in the instructional category, shows how “with safety designed from inside out and outside in, see how NASA has used Radioisotope Power Systems, or RPS, for more than 20 missions over the last 50 years.” NASA eClips is a K-12 education program produced by NIA’s Center for Integrative STEM Education for NASA.  The segment was produced by Tom Shortridge and Scott Bednar with Rebecca (Becky) Jaramillo serving as Consultant for Educational Content and Shannon Verstynen leading the team as Program Manager.
NASA 360 can be found online at NASA eClips is at Both series are proudly based at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The Emmy Awards Gala will be held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront in Baltimore, MD on Saturday, June 15 at 6 p.m

NIA Media Contact:

Timothy Allen

National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.



“NASA 360: Robots, Rocks and Rovers” Wins Telly Awards

NIA RELEASE: 2013-18

HAMPTON, Va. (May 15, 2013)  –  “NASA 360: Robots, Rocks and Rovers” has won two 34th Annual Telly Awards. The 30-minute television episode gives audiences an up-close look at NASA’s 2012 Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge, which was held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Mass. last summer.

During the 2012 competition, teams were challenged to build autonomous robots that could identify, collect and return samples and compete for a potential $1.5 million prize purse. The episode highlights how the NASA’s Centennial Challenges program promotes technical innovation and taps the nation’s ingenuity to make revolutionary advances in technology of value to NASA and the nation.

Guests on the program include Mason Peck, NASA chief technologist; Chris Ferguson, astronaut and commander of the final space shuttle mission; leading robotics experts from WPI; and the talented teams that traveled to WPI to compete in the Sample Return Robot Challenge.

“The Telly Awards has a mission to honor the very best in film and video,” said Linda Day, Executive Director of the Telly Awards. “To be selected from a field of nearly 11,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous countries illustrates the NASA 360 team’s creativity, skill, and dedication to their craft and serves as a testament to great film and video production.” The episode was honored with awards in both the “Government” and the “Informational” categories.

Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenge Manager noted, “’NASA 360: Robots Rocks & Rovers,’ was downloaded from NASA’s website more than three quarters of a million times within the first six months of the program’s release. We look forward to building on the vast interest of this award-winning episode and sharing the excitement of the next chapter in the story as ‘NASA 360’ and the Sample Robotic Return Challenge return to WPI’s campus June 4-8, 2013.”

NASA uses prize competitions to establish important technical challenges without having to specify the approach that is most likely to succeed, while only paying for successful results. These competitions increase the number and diversity of individuals, organizations and teams that are addressing a particular problem or challenge of national or international significance. These challenges stimulate private sector investment many times greater than the cash value of the prize.

NASA 360 is produced by the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Va., in collaboration with NASA. Programs from the series have been downloaded nearly 14 million times from The series also enjoys a following of nearly 70,000 fans through Facebook and Twitter and is regularly broadcast on NASA Television as well as 400 public broadcasting, cable and commercial stations. The show also is available on select airlines and cruise ships and via iTunes, Hulu and YouTube.


For additional information about the Sample Robot Return Challenge, visit:

To learn more about “NASA 360: Robots, Rocks & Rovers” or download the episode, visit:


More about the 34TH Annual Telly awards can be found at:


More about the National Institute of Aerospace is at:


Media Contacts:

Timothy Allen
National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.
Janet L. Anderson
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.


U.VA. Team’s Solar-Powered Wheelchair Wins World Cerebral Palsy Day Competition

Hampton, Va (May 10, 2013) —  A student team at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and AppliedScience won first place in the 2012 World Cerebral Palsy Day “Change My World in One Minute” competition for its design of a solar-powered wheelchair with retractable panels.

Seventeen million people worldwide live with cerebral palsy, a permanent disability that affects movement ranging from a weakness in one hand to an almost complete lack of voluntary movement.

World Cerebral Palsy Day was established in 2012 with an invitation for people with CP, their families and friends to post ideas online for something that could be created, developed or modified that would change the world for someone with a disability. Ideas were posted as text or video, with the specification that each idea could take only one minute to read or watch.

In early September, people were encouraged to go online, review the submitted ideas and vote for the concepts that could have the greatest impact on people’s lives – and more than 5,800 votes were cast for the 473 ideas submitted.

At the end of September, the World CP Day Panel reviewed the ideas and the public votes and selected three ideas to be shortlisted for development: a fold-up motorized wheelchair, a documentary on cerebral palsy in the 21st century and a wheelchair with solar power.

Social activists, researchers, inventors and innovators were then invited to turn the shortlisted ideas into reality.

“Our team worked closely together to come up with a solution for this challenging engineering problem in a very limited time,” said graduate student Dennis L. Waldron III, a member of the U.Va. team. “Although not required for the competition, we chose to build a prototype to test our design, and refined or completely changed certain aspects as we built, sometimes multiple times.”

The winners were announced April 27 at United Cerebral Palsy’s International Conference in San Diego, with U.Va.’s first-place entry receiving $20,000 from a total prize pool of $25,000.

The U.Va. team included electrical and computer engineering graduate students Waldron, Duncan McGillivray, Craig Ungaro and Ankit Shah, who work at the National Institute of Aerospace and NASA Langley Research Center, and undergraduate mechanical and aerospace engineering students Maria Michael and Kyung Kim. Electrical and computer engineering professor Mool Gupta, the Langley Professor in Residence at U.Va. and at the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, advised the team.

The team built the device primarily at the National Institute of Aerospace’s Research and Innovation Laboratories Facility in Hampton. The project received support from the Engineering School’s Experiential Program, through funding from alumnus Linwood “Chip” Lacy, with Gupta providing additional financial support through his faculty funds and industry support.

“This team of graduate and undergraduate students have created a device that will truly benefit those with disabilities,” Engineering School Dean James H. Aylor said. “The students on the team are excellent examples of the type of engineer we strive to produce in the U.Va. Engineering School – innovative leaders who are agents of change in society. I am thankful for the World CP Day organization for giving them this opportunity and for the National Institute of Aerospace for providing laboratory space.”

Team member Waldron, too, was thankful. “We are grateful for the opportunity to get our hands dirty and work on something with such great potential to help others,” He said. “That’s what engineering is all about.”

The wheelchair concept was inspired by the design of retractable roofs on convertible cars. The chair uses lightweight and robust materials and high-efficiency solar cells with custom-fabricated solar panels that encompass over one square meter when deployed without adding significantly to its length, width, height or weight when stored. The wheelchair can operate for more than 4½ hours at a speed of 5 mph on a fully charged battery, a range increase of more than 40 percent over batteries alone, and can run indefinitely at a speed of 1 mph on solar power alone, without using the battery.

The solar panels charge batteries even under cloudy conditions and have the added benefit of providing shade for the wheelchair occupant on sunny days. The single switch operation means that anyone who can use a joystick can operate the chair. The overall design includes standard wheelchair amenities such as a seatbelt, armrests, footrest and adjustable seating. In addition, USB power outlets are provided to charge modern peripherals such as cellphones, GPS navigation, tablet computers and items such as a fan and a reading light. An invention disclosure has been filed through the U.Va. Licensing and Ventures Group.

The team intends to use its prize money to make final refinements to the chair and to ship it to Alper Sirvan, the individual in Turkey who posted the initial suggestion for a solar-powered wheelchair. The remaining prize money will be returned to United Cerebral Palsy in support of future World CP Day competitions.

“United Cerebral Palsy is thrilled to present this award to the University of Virginia for their creation of a solar-powered wheelchair as part of the first World Cerebral Palsy Day’s ‘Change My Life in One Minute’ invention contest, which focused on concrete, attainable ideas that could change people’s lives,” said Stephen Bennett, president and chief executive officer of United Cerebral Palsy. “We are very proud to say that, together with the incredible efforts of the University of Virginia, Professor Gupta and all of the students and partners involved, one of these ideas has been brought to life.

“It is truly inspiring to hear of the team’s decision to use the prize money to send the wheelchair to the man who inspired the idea and to return the remaining funds. I applaud these extraordinary individuals for their work, and appreciate their efforts in helping to ensure that people living with cerebral palsy can live their lives to the fullest.”

A video of the team’s entry is available on the World CP Day YouTube Channel. The brochure they created and the team’s project report are also available. The video that accompanied the original project suggestion is available at

Media Contact:

Michael Wagner
National Institute of Aerospace

Josie Pipkin
University of Virginia

Mool Gupta
Univeristy of Virginia & National Institute of Aerospace



100 Exploration Way
Hampton, VA 23666