Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Expanding Frontiers Fall 1995

Expanding Frontiers is a publication of Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. To join our mailing list, please send us an e-mail with your request.

Table of Contents:


WANTED: High School Seniors and Community College Transfer Students for NASA Scholarships

Last year, a record 315 of our state's top achieving high school seniors vied for the chance to study science, engineering or math at the University of Washington on a Space Grant Scholarship. Two of these promising students received full 4-year scholarships covering room, board, and tuition. The other 22 finalists received a variety of awards that included waivers for room and board or tuition, and book funds.

Why apply for a Space Grant scholarship?

The sheer size of the university and the staggering number of courses available can overwhelm the average freshman. Along with financial support, Space Grant scholars receive a redeemable ticket to many other benefits. These include: the opportunity to live with other Space Grant Scholars on a designated floor of a UW dorm, weekly gatherings with peers, support from faculty and student mentors, and summer research opportunities with top scientists and engineers on the UW campus, at NASA centers, and in industry. Does it sound too good to pass up? This year, once again, the Washington NASA Space Grant program invites our state's future scientists, mathematicians and engineers to apply for these exceptional scholarships.

Designed for students who have taken nontraditional paths to continue their education, the community college transfer scholarships are awarded to promising students planning to transfer to the UW and continue studies in math, engineering or science. These awardees receive all of the benefits listed above.

Applications for freshmen are due on January 13, 1996. The deadline for community college transfer applications is April 15. Women and underrepresented students are strongly encouraged to apply. All that is required to obtain an application is a phone call to our office. Students are also encouraged to call. For applications or questions, please contact the Space Grant Program at 1-800-659-1943, or in the Seattle area at 543-1943.


A Space Grant Mini-Grant Can Transport Young Travelers to Just About Anywhere

Dr. Suess wrote a book entitled, Oh, the places you'll go! For school children in 78 of Washington's classrooms last year, Space Grant mini-grants created wonderful places to go. Some students went on data-collecting trips to our state's creeks and woodlands, others on simulated jaunts to Mars and the moon. They traveled light with pencils, compasses and magnifying glasses and found the universe in a jar or a lunar crater. Oh, the places they went. Oh, the places they'll go again in 1996. In January, the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction will award grants in amounts of up to $250, which will be matched with funds from school districts and other sources. Applications are included in this newsletter.

A Space Grant mini-grant can transport young travelers to just about anywhere.

At Prosser's Housel Middle School, one week last May, 450 seventh and eighth graders went, three classrooms at a time, on all day field trips to a local irrigation pond. Ducks and geese had been spotted there and since the pond is right under a major migratory flyway, the students wanted to determine whether the site would support a population of migratory birds. With funds provided by a Space Grant mini-grant and other sources, Ben Booth, one of the school's science teachers, was able to purchase testing equipment and arrange for transportation. With the aid of teachers and parent volunteers, armed with field guides, this mighty task force was able to study the pond by rowboat and on foot. They tested the water and took temperature readings, using the figures to draw detailed isotherm maps. They learned about local waterfowl, plants, animals and insects and brought water samples back to the classroom, teeming with aquatic life.

"The students got an idea of what a real scientist does...and an appreciation for what they could see with their bare eyes!" Mr. Booth said. The pond study will be an ongoing research topic for the school.

With a Space Grant mini-grant and matching funds, Seattle's Intermediate School did not travel to the sun but they made a marvelous sundial! Their technical advisor was UW Astronomy Professor Woodruff Sullivan, a veteran sundial builder. With Prof. Sullivan's help, the wall sundial was built to last, with aluminum and stainless steel.

In preparation for building, all of the school's students (3rd through 6th grade) made working card-board models and visited the new UW planetarium to learn about the sun. The older students calculated and plotted the all important positioning of the hour lines and gnomon, the vertical rod that makes the shadows. Everyone painted on colorful artistic designs such as a moon and a NASA shuttle. When the paint inevitably fades after many years, the dial's design allows it to be easily removed, repainted by a new generation of students and re-installed. The dial will serve both the school and the neighborhood as a teacher of the motions of the sun, and a reminder of the passage of time.

For more information about the mini-grants, please contact the Space Grant Program office at 1-800-659-1943 or (206) 543-1943 in Seattle.


NASA Space Grant Reception Celebrates Students

Karl Hutterer, Director of the Burke Museum, feels that the Space Grant Program provided his spirited young daughter with a sense of direction during her undergraduate years. He spoke at a reception on September 29 which honored students receiving the 1995 undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, as well as participants in last summer's undergraduate research program.

One of several speakers, Dr. Hutterer offered a parent's perspective. His daughter, Kate, graduated from the UW last spring and is continuing her studies in analytical chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kate, her father said, started at the UW as a somewhat rudderless freshman and benefited greatly from the one-on-one attention and the rich outreach and research opportunities she received as a Space Grant scholar.

Vice Provost Dr. Steven Olswang continued the program by welcoming the new students to the university and stressed the importance of the research opportunities that Space Grant helps to facilitate for many UW students. Two of last summer's research interns, Elizabeth Frame and Tobias Mann, followed with lively accounts of the intricate marvels of microbiology and computer cartography.

In closing, Space Grant Associate Director Pinky Nelson presented the awards with the help of special guests, Mr. Bob Schmetzer of Penwest who awarded five scholarships funded by Penwest, and Mrs. Patricia Curkendall and Mrs. Marcia Ann Crossett who presented two scholarships funded by the Donnegaard family endowment.


NASA Summer Undergraduate Research Program: From Fish in Space to a Tropical Rain Forest

UW junior Alysha Reinard got more than she bargained for from her summer job. She got stimulating part-time work through the next school year, a mentor who gives good advice, and an opportunity to present her work in San Francisco at the December meeting of the prestigious American Geophysical Union. Now, for 10 hours a week, Alysha studies a variety of topics, from x-rays of the aurora to microbursts, with UW's Dr. Ruth Skoug.

"Sometimes, the particles that come from the sun come into the atmosphere in bursts of about half a second," Alysha said knowledgeably. "These are called microbursts. We don't know why they happen but we're trying to find out."

She and Dr. Skoug have become colleagues and friends. The scientist acts as the precocious junior's mentor, passing on helpful tips about student housing, graduate school and what classes to take. Dr. Skoug, who recently received her doctorate, is a veteran of these wars.

"One of the neat things about Alysha is that she's very dedicated to a project," she said. "She's willing to put in the time to get it right even if it's not fun."

Now in its third year, the NASA Space Grant Summer Undergraduate Research Program is going strong. Last summer, 23 students were paid to do research in fields from Aeronautics to Zoology. Freshman to seniors, they did original experiments and studies on topics as varied as coral dating, Antarctic space science and atomic physics. The response from students and professors was uniformly positive. One professor said in amazement, "Where do you get these people?"

These students come to us. The UW receives more funding for research than any other state university in the country. Yet, even with a plethora of labs on campus, finding the right research job can be confusing and overwhelming. The undergraduate research program takes the guesswork out of the job hunt by matching capable students with professors conducting research in the student's field of interest. Once hired, young researchers get a rare view of the day-to-day life of a working scientist. For many, this insider's view shapes their decisions about the future.

The rewards of a summer job in a UW lab are not only academic but financial. Space Grant students earn a salary for the summer and are often asked to return in the fall. At least half of last summer's workers now enhance their studies with part-time jobs in research.

This coming fall, Space Grant will organize the first campus-wide undergraduate research conference to give these students a chance to present their work to peers, faculty, family and friends. The NASA Space Grant Summer Research Program is still recruiting students and professors for this summer. Those interested in participating in the program should contact the Space Grant Program at 1-800-659-1943, or 206-543-1943 in Seattle.


Western Regional Space Grant Conference

Delegates from 30 different Space Grant Consortia traveled to the Western Regional NASA Space Grant Conference held this year in Seattle on October 12-14, 1995. Hosted by Washington Space Grant on the University of Washington campus, the conference began with a day of tours to local interests such as Museum of Flight and UW's Human Interface Technology (virtual reality) Lab.

The next day and a half featured presenters who spoke about innovative projects such as solar terrestrial physics experiments at the UW and the University of California in Los Angeles, NASA's presence at Washington's Northwest Indian College, and Idaho's SPARK aeronautics program for high school students. Julius Dasch presented recent developments at NASA headquarters and representatives from Texas, Colorado, and California also presented current projects. The delegates used other sessions to brainstorm and share ideas on successful Space Grant programs in their states. Next year's conference will be held in Sante Fe, New Mexico.


Introducing Professor Julie Lutz of WSU

The Space Grant project at consortium member institution Washington State University (WSU), has a new staff member. Dr. Julie Lutz joins team leader Jack Horne, director of WSU's Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education Center. Dr. Lutz is a professor of mathematics and astronomy who directs the astronomy program and chairs the WSU mathematics department. She and Mr. Horne will be working with a new group of teachers this fall and teaching them an inductive, hands-on approach to astronomy. They will also be visiting schools in rural southeastern Washington, as well as developing and teaching classes on campus for pre-service teachers.

Dr. Lutz brings a wealth of experience to her new position. She is a former director of the National Science Foundation Division of Astronomical Sciences and has developed and taught pre-service courses in mathematics and astronomy for many years. The Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium welcomes Dr. Julie Lutz.


New Space Grant Class Makes Science Fun for College Students

Meteorology 100, an innovative class at Seattle Central Community College (SCCC), has been getting rave reviews. On recent evaluations, students said the instructor was encouraging, enthusiastic, and inspirational. Such glowing words are not often used in relation to introductory science courses, but this one is different.

Designed and taught by Space Grant Director of Science Education Janice DeCosmo, the course uses teaching methods not common to 101 level courses, such as inquiry-based laboratory exercises, cooperative learning, student journals and individual and group projects.

Recognizing that traditional methods do not always reach the non-traditional science student, Dr. DeCosmo gives fewer lectures and seeks more immediate feedback. The result is a potent interactive environment in which students not only learn but have fun. They build on their knowledge of basic science concepts within the context of the contemporary issue of climate change. The course content focuses on the atmosphere, with emphasis on the climate processes that connect the atmosphere with the oceans, the biosphere, land and ice.

The 5 credit course will be offered at SCCC during winter quarter on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. New students can register from Dec. 6 to 14. The class cost is $221.75 for five credits, plus student fees. For registration information, please call SCCC at 587-3800. For other questions, please contact the Space Grant Program office at 1-800-659-1943 or (206) 543-1943 in Seattle.


Astronomy Curriculum Designed For Hands-On People

The Pacific Science Center has been on the road with their Space Odyssey van to distribute Astro Adventures to schools throughout our state since the spring of 1994.

Funded in part by the NASA Space Grant program, the inventive curriculum package is based on years of pilot testing by authors, Dennis Schatz, Associate Director, and Doug Cooper, Supervisor of Teacher Education, of the Pacific Science Center.

The result is 19 complete lessons and dozens of exciting suggestions for exploring astronomy topics. With ready-to-go materials for grades 4 and up, teachers and students can investigate the phases of the moon, create an alien, make a sun clock, or study messages from space, among other fun activities. The curriculum is on sale at the Pacific Science Center. For more information, call the center at (206) 443-2001.