NASA, FAA Team Up For "Smart Skies"

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NASA and the FAA on Wednesday agreed to work together on an education project that aims to foster the development of students' skills in science, technology, engineering and math. Their first undertaking is a NASA curriculum called "Smart Skies," an online air traffic control simulator for grades 5 through 9. It introduces students to the concepts of controlling air traffic while teaching them skills in math and problem-solving. The effort will contribute to the development of a diverse, qualified aviation and space workforce for the future, according to NASA. Air traffic controllers at FAA's Oakland, Calif., facility helped to develop the program. The Web site features videos that explain how the ATC system -- "the world's biggest distance-rate-time problem" -- works. The site also challenges students to figure out how to use route or speed changes to line up a set of airplanes so they are three nautical miles apart, the last plane arrives as soon as possible, and the airplanes are never closer than two nautical miles.