Baylor scientist creates TED-Ed lesson about extraterrestrial life in our solar system

February 21, 2020

WACO, Texas (February 14, 2020) Augusto Carballido, Ph.D., assistant research professor in Baylor's Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER), is one of the creators of a TED-Ed lesson titled "There may be extraterrestrial life in our solar system”.

Carballido received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Cambridge, UK. He has been a member of CASPER since 2015. Previously, he held postdoctoral positions at the University of Texas at Austin, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by the California Institute of Technology.

Carballido’s research focuses on the origins and workings of the solar system. He uses computer and mathematical models to study the physics of tiny dust particles from which the planets formed. His research interests include the formation of the Earth’s moon, the information on the early solar system encoded in meteorites, and the possibility of life on the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Carballido prepared the script for the TED-Ed video lesson with the goal of communicating the exciting possibility of extraterrestrial life on icy moons to the public. Increasingly more scientists are examining the prospects for life beyond Earth, and our own solar system contains many places that could have suitable conditions for life. The video focuses on three of these places: Jupiter’s moon Europa, Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The team in charge of producing this video, which also includes a short quiz, created descriptive graphics that help convey the lesson’s message in an engaging manner.

To create the TED-Ed lesson, Carballido was first nominated by Shanna Attai, Ph.D., assistant research professor and research coordinator for the Educational Outreach Group within CASPER. Carballido became part of a pool of about 50 researchers and educators who are selected each year to write the lessons. TED-Ed helped revise and prepare the script for the video, bringing in fact-checkers and external reviewers to make sure the information was correct, selecting voice actors, animators and producers and, finally, creating the video. The script is written to be universally understood, and includes additional materials such as a short quiz, linked articles with more in-depth information and two discussions that allow interaction among viewers. The video has been viewed over 300k times, and the view count is continually growing.

As Baylor continues to expand its efforts to become a leading Christian research university, Carballido's efforts reflect the connections between research labs housed within the BRIC and outreach to the general public, especially to K-12 students. With his video available for the world to see and use, Carballido remarks: “The process of writing this script for a large audience was rewarding and fun. The TED-Ed team were very helpful and insightful. Thanks to their experience producing this type of educational videos, we were able to share the wonder of the fascinating objects known as icy moons, which might one day answer what I think is the most intriguing question of all: are we alone?”

The BRIC has made efforts to become a place for scientific social outreach, hosting STEM summer camps and creating internship positions for Baylor students, while catering to the research needs not only of Baylor faculty but also of organizations such as CASPER and external partners in business and industry. Attai states, “Dr. Carballido is an excellent scientist whose ability to communicate with the public stands out from the crowd. We hope to continue to expand our science outreach and TED-Ed videos to continue to engage the community in science outreach with clear and compelling stories such as that written by Dr. Carballido.”

Click here to view the video.

ABOUT CASPER

The Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER) is a stand-alone research center located at Baylor University. CASPER teams conduct research in a number of theoretical and experimental areas and offer both basic research as well as engineering and design opportunities for graduate, undergraduate, technical support and high school students as well as grade school, middle school and high school teachers. For more information, visit www.baylor.edu/CASPER.

ABOUT TED-ED

TED-Ed is an awarding winning youth and education initiative, with a mission to spark and celebrate the ideas of teachers and students around the world. They support learning, creating an ever-growing library of original animated videos such as Carballido’s along with additional services that help the spread of information to students and teachers all over the globe. TED-Ed Lessons are collaborations between educators, designers, animators, screenwriters, directors, science writers, historians, journalists, and editors that pair the videos with questions and resources.

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