WASHINGTON, May 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA has unveiled plans for its 2013 Summer of Innovation project, which challenges middle school students across the United States to share in the excitement of scientific discovery and space exploration through unique, NASA-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO) Summer of Innovation leverages the expertise and reach of NASA's 10 field centers, national academic and industry partners and smaller, non-traditional collaborators to keep students engaged in STEM activities during the summer school break. NASA's facilities and partner organizations will host family activity days, opportunities for students to talk with NASA experts, and summer day camps. Students attending the day camps will design and construct their own rockets, build water filtration systems, learn to become as fit as an astronaut, and participate in NASA hands-on activities. Information about NASA opportunities during the 2013 Summer of Innovation is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/soi The main focus will be on the Exploration Design Challenge, a NASA and industry STEM initiative announced in March. Exploration Design Challenge components will be woven into many Summer of Innovation offerings. Interested students, parents and teachers also may participate in the challenge without taking part in Summer of Innovation. "The Exploration Design Challenge is an amazing opportunity for students in kindergarten through 12th grade and is a fun way to keep a STEM focus this summer," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for education in Washington. "For the middle school set, we have an opportunity for them to learn about space radiation and how it can affect astronauts traveling to deep space. They then will design and develop a radiation shield prototype to mitigate these risks. After successfully completing these activities, the students may submit their names to be flown to space aboard the Orion spaceflight test next year." National partners selected previously will continue STEM efforts begun during Summer of Innovation sessions in 2011 and 2012, predominantly through summer camps that use NASA-themed curricula and hands-on activities that present academic challenges.