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Old Dominion University M.B.A. students Jason McKernan and Erik Metzroth were recently named as finalists in the 2006 NASA Means Business annual competition. They won a cash award and trips to Johnson Space Center in Houston Feb. 21-22 and Kennedy Space Center in Florida May 22-24.

The NASA Means Business competition calls for business students across the country to research, design and develop a communication and education plan for the organization. Competitors are tasked with developing an outreach plan in the form of a 30-second public service announcement and an Internet campaign.

The winning team will be chosen based on its success in communicating NASA's vision by highlighting the agency's goals and incorporating its scientific research.

"When we heard about the competition, we thought this was an amazing opportunity and knew we had to enter," said McKernan.

McKernan, of Knoxville, Tenn., and Metzroth, of Tiburon, Calif., began the project by conducting an informal survey of about 70 people in the local area. "We wanted to know what the average person knew about NASA," McKernan explained. "We found the answer is 'not much at all.' "

The pair chose to focus on NASA's applications in everyday life, which include everything from safety equipment to ski helmets and goggles to wireless technology.

McKernan and Metzroth, along with three other finalist teams, will travel to Houston to tour the NASA facility and gain access to the center's extensive photographic and video archives. Material they collect on site will be used in their final presentations.
In May, the teams will visit Kennedy Space Center to review their strategic plans with NASA during four days of presentations and proposal work. The winning team will be announced May 24.

Students from the winning team will be awarded a trip to Washington, D.C., where they will present their plan to top NASA and government officials.

NASA developed the competition in the late 1990s after it determined that, while it had been successful in communicating the reasons for space exploration, the agency had not been as effective in relating its expectations and accomplishments to the public. NASA decided to turn to students across the country for help in this process.

"The average person witnesses a space launch once a year but has no idea what NASA does the remaining 364 days. With our proposal, we hope to bridge that gap," said McKernan.

This article was posted on: February 3, 2006

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