Presentation #410.07 in the session “Education and Community Engagement 1”.
The Toolbox for Research and Exploration (TREX) is a node of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). TREX aims to develop tools and research methods for exploration of airless bodies, like the Moon and asteroids, to prepare for human missions. These rocky surfaces also are coated in fine particulate dust. In order to understand the surface characteristics and to investigate potential resources on airless bodies, the TREX team is conducting laboratory spectral measurements and other experiments (e.g., irradiation, impact shock, etc.) that will enhance the study of existing mission datasets. The TREX team is made up of multidisciplinary scientists and education and communication specialists from 12 institutions. TREX public engagement connects TREX subject matter experts to their local communities as well as to national audiences through public events, camps, talks, and museum events. The global pandemic has pushed TREX public engagement into virtual events as all in person outreach has been suspended. New programming has included summer online presentations to camps across the country and Saturday presentations to the Chabot Space and Science Center’s Galaxy Explorers program for high school students. In the fall, the TREX team will give regular presentations to students at smaller universities to share information about planetary science as a field of study. Additionally, the public engagement team will continue to work with the Chabot Space and Science Center to provide virtual training for high school volunteers and to support other community outreach events including International Observe the Moon Night. In spring 2021, TREX will lead a new Science Communicators Workshop for Disabled Writers - a 7-week online workshop for self-identified disabled writers. Lessons learned by conducting a year of virtual engagement will be integrated into this and other virtual workshops that were designed to meet the needs of audiences who previously needed to engage online. Challenges posed by programming cancellations have provided new opportunities for the TREX public engagement team to reach new audiences and have pushed the entire TREX team to engage in new ways.