Integrating Open Challenges in the Curriculum: Lessons Learned from an Experience with NASA
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Preparing students for the workforce is a balancing act that involves theory, practice, and assessment. As students navigate an educational experience that is, however, often distant from real-world needs, it is imperative that academia finds a novel way to bridge the gap. As many organizations utilize open challenges to attract ideas and talent, academia can easily create such bridge, leading to greater engagement, greater student preparation, and a potential employment pipeline. This paper describes the experience of our students and faculty advisors who participated to the NASA SUITS (Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students) Design Challenge. In particular, we review the pedagogical value of the solution that they created and the changes that were implemented in the curriculum of an undergraduate degree program in Information Technology. This open-source, multi-year project is also a flexible platform that can be utilized for engagement in K-12 education as well as graduate research projects.