NASA, Voyager, and long-term project-based learning

voyager 1 probe

The premise for the first Star Trek film featuring the original series cast proposes that a probe from Earth, Voyager 6, traveled so far and accumulated so much information as it traveled the cosmos that it achieved sentience. And when it did, it wanted to return to “The Creator” and deliver all that information.

Trust me, that first Star Trek movie is the most “sci-fi” of the entire series, except maybe Star Trek: Beyond.

While no probe named Voyager 6 ever launched, the idea of a probe transmitting data back home after traveling billions of miles is still very much a reality and not science fiction.

However, you may have heard that Voyager 1, launched nearly 50 years ago, began transmitting gibberish back to NASA a few months ago. Many feared the worst. Voyager kept transmitting data, signifying it was alive, but something happened to the data transmissions.

After five months of work, the Voyager team worked some coding magic to restore the code and restart regular transmissions.

“When the time came to get the signal, we could clearly see all of a sudden, boom, we had data, and there were tears and smiles and high fives… Everyone was very happy and very excited to see that, hey, we’re back in communication again with Voyager 1. We’re going to see the status of the spacecraft, the health of the spacecraft, for the first time in five months.”

Linda Spilker, project scientist for NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft at JPL

Talk about project-based learning at work…

Perhaps there’s no better example of the importance of project-based learning in schools than a story like this. When has anyone tried to change the code on an object over 15 billion miles from the Earth?

Never. There’s no guidebook for a project like this, no curriculum to refer to, no content standards. Just a group of experts trying everything they know to solve a problem.

And this project has been going for nearly 50 years. Share that with your students when they think they’ve been working on a project for too long.

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Stack Overflow Loses Traffic to ChatGPT

an AI-powered robot smashing blocks of computer code

More news on the influence of AI in arenas outside of education:

Web analytics firm SimilarWeb reported last month that Stack Overflow has seen a drop in traffic every month since the beginning of 2022, with the average drop being 6%. In March, Stack Overflow saw a 13.9% drop in traffic from February and in April, the website saw 17.7% drop in traffic from March. SimilarWeb argues that some of that dropping traffic could be due to GitHub’s AI helper called CoPilot, but users could also be using the more popular ChatGPT as a way to help debug their code—the same way they may via posts on Stack Overflow’s forum.


Stack Overflow is a popular website among programmers, where they can ask and answer technical questions related to coding. Users can also vote on the best answers so that the most helpful ones rise to the top. The site is widely used as a resource for debugging and problem-solving, and its community is known for being helpful and knowledgeable.

ChatGPT, which uses AI to generate responses to programming questions, has been gaining popularity as an alternative to Stack Overflow. The website’s AI technology can provide more personalized and accurate answers to users’ questions, making it a more efficient tool for debugging and problem-solving.

We’ve already seen how ChatGPT has taken a large chunk of business away from Chegg. I wonder what site/industry will take the next hit.

Love it or hate it, AI is here to disrupt your reality.

The Eclectic Educator is a free resource for all who are passionate about education and creativity. If you enjoy the content and want to support the newsletter, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Your support helps keep the insights and inspiration coming!

Pike Mall Tech: 10 May 2022

Photo by Ryland Dean on Unsplash

Today’s Links

How I would learn to code (if I could start over)

I was a computer science major back in the early part of this new millennia in another life. Somehow, I managed to leverage that into getting a job writing computer science standards for the state of Kentucky.

I still don’t know how that happened. Weird.

Anyway, the first coding language I learned was Java. It’s a beast with a very steep learning curve that intimidates most people. And it’s a horrible language to tackle when you’re first starting out.

If I had it to do all over again, I might go this route.

Service-learning isn’t just for after school clubs

I love service projects organized by students. Clothing drives, food drives, clean-up days, and many others are great ways to engage students in their communities.

But we shouldn’t just leave service projects to after-school clubs.

What if we made them part of the learning process in core content classes?

Tom Holman, board chair of the Search Institute, told me that their research shows one of the three most positive indicators (predictors) of future success among young people is their belief that “what they do makes a difference” ( He also recommends the Multiplying Good organization, which can be found at

Producing More Successful Students Like Grant

Personalized certificates with The Google

It’s near the end of the school year for most places in the US and that often means certificates.

Whether you’re handing out certificates to students or teachers (hello PD), there are options for you if you’re using The Google.

How to Create and Send Personalized Certificates in Google Workspace

Linkus Randomus


colophon example
Latine non loquor

Currently writing:

  • Volume 1: The Heretic Chronicles – a fantasy story about a girl, her sword, and extreme fundamentalist religion (WC: 15,457)
  • Untitled Sci-Fi novel – a group of students race across the stars, avoiding an evil empire (WC: 275)
  • Sci-fi short story – earth as a farm for aliens (WC: 492)

Currently reading:

Upcoming Events:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Mike Paul, and include a link to

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Cory Doctorow’s work at Pluralistic inspired the layout, focus, and work displayed here. Hat tip to Cory for all his fine work.

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