Mars City Facility Ops Challenge STEM Program Intro
Buildings of the future will include more technology and advanced materials than ever before. The challenge will be finding a skilled workforce to maintain them. The current buildings-related workforce in the United States is aging; the retirement of a significant number of industry professionals is imminent; and other fields already are competing for today’s capable students. The need to reach out and educate the next generation of professionals is becoming increasingly imperative.
Recruiting and developing a workforce that can effectively design, construct and operate the high-performance buildings of the future will require the expansion of skills-based, technical education and the creation of school-to-work career pathways. It also will require actively recruiting students capable of operating in such a high-performing technical built environment.
In late 2011, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) teamed up with the Total Learning Research Institute (TLRI) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education program aimed at attracting students to address this industry-wide challenge. In the years since, the program has recruited the help of leading industry organizations to develop an engaging educational program geared to high school and college students.
Building upon the virtual Mars City base initially conceived by TLRI and NASA (which is the foundation for a variety of STEM education programs across the country), NIBS and TLRI developed the Mars City Facility Operations (Ops) Challenge. The Mars City Facility Ops Challenge puts students in charge of operating a virtual base on Mars using the same software tools that facility managers currently use in the field. The Ops Challenge familiarizes students with buildings, building systems and Mars through an introductory curriculum. The program introduces students to the various responsibilities facility managers perform to assure the Mars base is maintained and operating effectively.
Using the same kind of Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software that professional facility managers use, Mars City Facility Ops students respond to different scenarios and schedule work orders to address any issues in the facility. As professionals experience in the real world, the students must work in teams to address problems and resolve personnel resource issues to implement the most effective solutions.
Building the Model
In order to assure the greatest level of real-world applicability, the Mars City Facility Ops Challenge team of volunteers developed a building information model (BIM) for the facility, complete with the equipment needed to operate the base. KieranTimberlake, Gilbane Building Company and Alderson Engineering provided the BIM. TMA Systems loaded the essential data for operations into the CMMS using the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie), a standard for organizing construction data. As of mid-2015, facility managers from the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and NIBS’ Facility Maintenance and Operations Committee (FMOC) are in the process of developing the scenarios and professional solutions to be presented to students.
In addition to the simulation itself, the Mars City Facility Ops Challenge team is developing a career center to introduce students to potential career opportunities in the building industry. The center will feature interviews with industry professionals who represent various disciplines from across the industry, and offer materials and planning tools to assist students in identifying a pathway for education and employment in the industry.
Testing the Curriculum
In 2013, a group of students at the Edison Academy, a special technical program located at Edison High School, a public school in Fairfax, Virginia, tested the introductory curriculum.
Since then, the TLRI/NIBS/NASA team has alpha tested several other components of the curriculum, including the portion that includes the actual operations and maintenance (O&M) simulations. The team has correlated the curriculum with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to permit use in classrooms and to ensure that it can be used in programs approved for high school or college credit.
The USA Science & Engineering Festival
The Mars City Facility Ops Challenge feature prominently at the National Institute of Building Sciences booth during the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., which had more than 300,000 attendees. NIBS also is planning to host a booth at the 2018 Festival.
Sponsorship Opportunities Abound
It is only through the volunteer support and financial contributions of industry organizations and committed individuals that this program has gotten off the ground. Please consider providing financial support to help advance this exciting project. (Contributions are tax deductible.) We thank our current Supporters for their contributions.
The National Institute of Building Sciences, authorized by Congress in 1974, is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that brings together representatives of government, the professions, industry, labor and consumer interests to identify and resolve building process and facility performance problems. The Institute serves as an authoritative source of advice for both the private and public sectors with respect to the use of building science and technology.
The Total Learning Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational and scientific organization dedicated to solving the problem of American and world illiteracy and competitiveness through systemic educational reform and the intelligent application of learning technology.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is a United States government agency responsible for science and technology related to air and space. The Space Age started in 1957 with the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik. NASA was created in 1958. The agency was created to oversee U.S. space exploration and aeronautics research.
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