Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Expanding Frontiers Spring 1995

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Table of Contents:


Space Grant Brings Clouds and Quakes into the Classroom

When an earthquake shook Seattle in January, David Reeder of Seattle Prep was prepared. He was ready to study earthquakes in his ninth grade science class using activities he had already designed in NASA Space Grant's Meteorology and Geology for Teachers Course.

"The exercises went really well," Reeder said. "I tend to like physics...especially applied physics, when you can apply it to real-life things." He added that what stands out for him about the course he took last summer was the precision with which the instructors answered questions. "They were very careful to state exactly what they meant."

Second/third grade teacher Thelma Ritchie agreed. "I felt like I learned a lot and what I learned I really understood because of the way they taught," she said. Her class at Island Park Elementary in Mercer Island recently did a unit on weather, and she was able to use much of what she gained in Geophysics 480A last June.

Now in its third year, this practical 4-credit course is designed for middle school and intermediate level elementary teachers of science and earth science but is open to all educators. Teachers explore the physics behind weather and seismic waves along with related topics.

The compact summer institute is offered for three weeks during Term A of Summer Quarter, June 26 - July 19, 1995, Monday through Friday, from (9:00 to 12:30 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.) on the UW campus. Also known as CLOUDS and QUAKES, the class features: hands-on lab sessions, curriculum development and presentation, visits by local scientists, use of the Internet, and field trips to Bainbridge Island and the Northwest Coast.

"It's a chance for teachers to enrich their understanding of meteorology and geology in an interactive learning environment," one of the instructors, Dr. Janice DeCosmo, said. "As a strong believer in inquiry-based science teaching, I try to model an approach to science teaching that may help stimulate their students' interest and enhance their learning."

DeCosmo teaches the CLOUDS half of the class and is currently the Associate Director of Science Education for the Washington NASA Space Grant and a Research Assistant Professor in the Geophysics Program at the UW. She also teaches Atmospheric Sciences 101 through UW Extension and Global Climate Change at Seattle Central Community College.

Dr. Mike Brown is responsible for lessons on QUAKES and has taught geophysics and geology as a professor at the University of Washington since 1984. He has taught the required earth science course for students working on their teaching credential in secondary science education and has participated in science curriculum development workshops in the Shoreline school district.

There is still time to receive a full scholarship to attend CLOUDS and QUAKES, a lively and engaging professional experience. At press time, 5 scholarships from Washington NASA Space Grant remain to be awarded. They are given on a first-come, first-served basis. The funds cover 4 credits of tuition (undergraduate or graduate at the student's choice), the meteorology and seismology textbooks, and other course materials.


NASA Summer Research Program Offers a Rare Opportunity

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.


Student Does Original Research on Minute World

By Dev Sen, UW Senior
Undergraduate Research Program

For the last year, I have been working with physics professor Steve Lamoreaux developing an idea. I am attempting to measure a force in quantum electrodynamics, the study of the interaction between light and matter on the microscopic scale. The force I am trying to measure is named after the Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir. The Casimir force is the force of attraction between two conductors due to fluctuations in the structure of space at the smallest scale of length. At this length, life is a boiling foam with particles and anti-particles popping into existence for a trillionth-trillionth of a second, only to annihilate each other in a perpetual struggle between being and nothingness. This extraordinary process is happening all around us and even inside of us--between the atoms which make up our bodies--every moment of our lives, though we, of course, remain completely unaware.

The remarkable thing is that in 1948, Casimir was able to theoretically show that these fluctuations in the fabric of space are real, and that their existence could be experimentally verified. The physicist calculated that the pressure between two perfectly flat conducting plates separated by a micron (a thousandth of a centimeter), due to these vacuum fluctuations, was about one hundred million times less than atmospheric pressure.

An incredibly small force, indeed!

In the 1950's, a number of physicists attempted to measure this effect between conductors and failed. Consequently, we do not have precise experimental confirmation of the Casimir force between flat conductors. What I am attempting to do with my experiment is to provide a precision measurement of this force.

After reading all the literature I could find on experiments to measure the Casimir effect, I had an idea to improve upon the experimental methods of the past. I decided to use an apparatus called a torsion balance, an extremely delicate and sensitive device used primarily in doing gravitation experiments. For the past year, most of my work on this project has been to design, fabricate, and assemble this torsion balance. In the process, I have had the chance to learn about all sorts of interesting topics, both theoretical and experimental. Presently, I have completed the apparatus and am now preparing a vacuum chamber in which the torsion balance will sit. If I am successful, this will be the first quantitative measurement of the Casimir effect between conductors. It will help to confirm Casimir's original calculations and help us to understand a little better the workings of the quantum vacuum.

My work on this experiment has undoubtedly been the most interesting aspect of my education here at the University of Washington. Through the generous support of the Washington NASA Space Grant Program, I was able to work on this project full time last summer and part-time throughout this school year. Without this support, I doubt whether this experiment would be at the stage it is now, and whether it would have even gotten off the ground.


State's Top High School Seniors Turn Out for Space Grant

In 1991, 30 high school seniors applied for the NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Scholarship. This year, a record 315 of our state's top young scholars vied for a chance to study science, engineering or math at the University of Washington, one of the country's premier research facilities. The applicants were a richly diverse group with talents and interests that spanned the globe. Their college entrance exam scores were always excellent; at times, phenomenal. The recommendation letters, included in each student's packet, described sterling qualities in the classroom and the community.

To narrow the field down from 315 to a mere 24 was a daunting task; nevertheless, after many long days, the Space Grant staff reviewed the numerous applications and made their decision. In March, 24 finalists arrived at the university for a day of campus tours and interviews. Between visits to various departments, they met in small groups with a Space Grant panel. For the judges, the abundance of talent was, again, impressive.

Thanks to matching funds provided by the UW Office of Student Affairs, the Geology Department, the College of Education, the Donnergaard Family Endowment, the Sigurd Olsen Endowment, and the Penwest Corporation, the panel was able to award a scholarship to each finalist. Full 4-year scholarships valued at $29,000 were given to two of the promising students. The other students received a variety of scholarships that include waivers for room and board or tuition, and book scholarships. Congratulations to the new NASA Space Grant Scholars!

Applications for next year's scholarships are due on January 13, 1996. All that is required to nominate a student 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.


First NASA Space Grant Scholars to Graduate This Spring

They are getting reach to launch. A brave new world in research or industry awaits them. The first crew of NASA Space Grant scholars will graduate in June. These five students were among the first Washington high school seniors to receive NASA scholarships when the Space Grant Undergraduate Scholarship Program began in 1990. Since that time, they have excelled in their chosen majors, and have been role models and leaders on campus and in the community.

Kate Hutterer and Christine Engan helped to create the Space Grant Peer Outreach Program which began three years ago. Kate and Christy designed and taught many of the interactive science lessons that they and other students took to local elementary schools. Kate spent a summer in the Space Grant Undergraduate Research Program studying coral dating with UW oceanographer Dr. Glen Shen. An analytical chemistry major, she will begin graduate study next year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Christy worked for two summers as a NASA undergraduate researcher. She worked on campus with Dr. Richard Palmer on a drought management project and off campus as an intern with Seattle's Regional Transit Authority. After graduating with honors, she will continue her graduate studies in civil engineering at the UW.

Lindean Barnett compiled field notes on the Blue Glacier for UW glaciologist Dr. Howard Conway . She graduates with honors in atmospheric sciences, and plans to take a year off from her education to live and travel in her ancestral land, Norway.

Another student in atmospheric sciences, Liz Tuttle, spent the summer after her sophomore year as a Space Grant intern analyzing samples of Antarctic snow in the Livermore labs in California. She graduates with honors and will pursue a career in atmospheric sciences.

1996 will find David Henry, an electrical engineering major who assisted with the recent GLOBE Workshop, starting his graduate work at Stanford University.

The WSGC congratulates these fine scholars and wishes them well as they leave the UW for that wider world out there.


Two Space Pioneers Still on the Comet Trail

They are this year's recipients of the UW's prestigious John and Jesse Danz Professorship and co-discoverers of the comet that spectacularly crashed into Jupiter last July. She has discovered more comets than any other person in this century. He has been a key figure in planning for the unmanned and manned explorations of the moon. Together, astrogeologists Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker have revolutionized the study of near-Earth encounters with asteroids and comets.

In March, the Shoemakers took time from their busy Seattle schedule to visit Space Grant's education outreach partner, Dearborn Park Elementary School. The two scientists showed slides, talked about their work, and answered questions.

One student raised her hand and asked Ms. Shoemaker how she felt when she knew that the comet was going to crash into Jupiter. Shoemaker said that her first thought was, "Oh no, not my comet!"

Later, she realized that they could learn a lot from the crash.

Dearborn Park's 4th graders were thrilled to meet the Shoemakers and learn first hand about the excitement of hunting for comets in space.


Schools All Over The World Sign Up For GLOBE

Deborah Schuldt of Monroe High School is excited about GLOBE. "It's cutting-edge!" she said. Schuldt teaches environmental science and biology. Along with 32 science teachers from four neighboring states, she spent a week on the UW campus (March 21-24) at the GLOBE Workshop learning how to train some of the world's youngest scientific data-gatherers. The effort was part of the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program.

In three and a half action-packed days, elementary and secondary teachers received hands-on instruction in procedures that they and their students are now using to collect relevant environmental data in their own backyards. The teachers listened to dynamic presentations from GLOBE workshop leaders, and took part in computer sessions, laboratory experiments and field work on the UW campus. The weather was cloudy but spirits were high.

"We felt that we were part of something special," Joel Anderson of Colville said. As of Earth Day, his 4th through 6th graders at Onion Creek School joined students at more than 1,500 schools across the country and worldwide in making daily weather measurements and other observations of their environment. They report their findings via the Internet to a central data processing facility in Boulder, Colorado.

The official starting date of the GLOBE program coincided with the 25th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22. The program is funded and administered in the United States by six federal agencies, including NASA.

Vice President Al Gore is one of the driving forces behind GLOBE, and is the program's Number 1 fan. "GLOBE builds excitement about science and math among our young people and helps all of us to better understand our global environment," he has said.

In return for the students' efforts, organizers will send them images and educational materials on-line via the World Wide Web, depicting their observations and that of other GLOBE schools around the world. To date, more than 100 countries have expressed interest in participating in the project.

The Washington NASA Space Grant (WSGC) is supporting GLOBE by coordinating three training workshops this spring and summer. The principal organizer, local director and energizer behind the workshops is WSGC Associate Director for Science Education, Dr. Janice DeCosmo. According to Dr. DeCosmo, "The educational goals of the GLOBE program resonate with those of the WSGC. We are happy to provide a local training center for Northwest participating GLOBE teachers. It's exciting to be involved in a program that allows students all over the world to explore their environment together."

Pat Krick, a science teacher from Tacoma who attended the GLOBE training in March, said one thing she liked about the workshop was that the materials were easy to understand. "We got a good view of the program. The trainers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic," she said. Krick had two words to describe her experience: INTENSE and WONDERFUL. She teaches K-5 graders at the Fawcett Center for Year Round Learning. "The kids are excited. We're anxious to keep going."


Course Opens Window New Science From Space

Now in its sixth year, the NASA Science and Engineering Undergraduate Research Seminar (Geophysics 425) is a lecture series with a difference.

Offered to undergraduate and graduate students by the UW NASA Space Grant Program, the 1-credit class gives space enthusiasts and other learners a window on the intriguing research currently being done by scientists and engineers on the UW campus and elsewhere.

This year's theme is SCIENCE FROM SPACE, with a focus on the myriad uses of data acquired with space-based sensors. On a given week, students may enter the fascinating realm of Solar Flares And Space Weather, and in another, the Remote Sensing Of Sea Ice. The ecletic topics, are, certainly, just part of the course's appeal. Each class gets a chance to learn of discoveries in space and global climate change. This spring, 91 students signed up for the adventure. The popular lectures are also open to the public and are presented on Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:20 pm in 301 Miller Hall through May 25.

Below is a series sampler:

Jennifer Miletta, NOAA/PMEL
"A Satellite's View of the Earth"

Robert Winglee, Geophysics
"Solar Flares and Space Weather"

Bruce Margon, Astronomy
"The Ultimate House Call:
Results from the Repaired Hubble Space Telescope"


NWIC Works With NASA To Find Ways to Recycle Water

At the Northwest Indian College (NWIC), science students and staff are growing lettuce in the hydroponics lab, a place to grow plants in water without soil. This is no ordinary lettuce. These plants could one day feed the citizens of a space station, a Mars or Moon base, and clean the facility's waste water at the same time. The college is on the second year of a three year grant project sponsored by NASA. They are working with a group at NASA Ames called CELSS (Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems) to figure out ways to recycle water.

"Lettuce is very fast growing," Dan Burns, an educator in NWIC's department of Natural Sciences, said. "We're hoping it's a good candidate for nutrient uptake," he added, explaining that even sewage has nitrates and nutrients in it.

The water quality project has greatly benefited NWIC, according to Burns. "It's rare in a 2-year college for students to get actual research experience," Burns said. Participating in the water quality project "makes them really prepared to go to a university." He pointed out that the NASA grant has paid for work-study for several students during the year, and for four full-time students in the summer, as well as some of the equipment required for research.

"For Native Americans, water is a really big issue," he said. "If these students go to work for their tribe, they will have great skills in water analysis."

For now, Burns and his students are taking notes and watching to see how fast the lettuce will grow, take up nutrients from waste water, and clean the water. The answers to these questions could change how water is recycled in the future, even in space.


Starquest Builds Self-Esteem and Bridges to the Future

On a recent two-day field trip to Neah Bay, the high school students enrolled in Starquest loved decoding a message from an alien. They also made star-gazers, sun-clocks, saw a slide show on the planets, and quizzed each other on astronomy. These students represent the Swinomish and Lummi Tribes and come from several high schools in the Bellingham area. Beginning February 22, they have been meeting biweekly on the campus of the Northwest Indian College (NWIC) for a series of innovative evening workshops that celebrate the beauty of astronomy. By the end of May, the high schoolers will have earned their first 3 college credits.

"A lot of what I do is to keep these kids on track, keep them engaged," Kate McDonald said. McDonald coordinates Starquest which was funded by an IDEA grant (Initiative to Develop Education Astronomy), and a similar NASA summer program called Seaquest. She said that if these teenagers feel comfortable in an academic program that builds self-esteem, they begin to make bridges to the future. For some, the first bridge may be to a high school diploma.

The Starquest workshops are led by WSGC member Dennis Schatz, Associate Director for Education at the Pacific Science Center and Dr. George "Pinky" Nelson, the Associate Director of WSGC and an associate professor of astronomy at the UW. The Starquest curriculum builds on the astronomy workbook, Astro Adventures, written by Shatz.


In Memory of Dr. Thomas Lutz

Thomas Lutz, 54, a professor of astronomy at Washington State University, died February 20, 1995 at his Pullman home of cardiac arrhythmia.

He was an integral part of the Washington Space Grant Consortium. He and WSU educator Jack Horne taught astronomy workshops to teachers in rural southeastern Washington, using an inductive, hands-on approach. Dr. Lutz was an outstanding teacher who delighted in learning right along with his students. Thousands of school children benefited from their teachers having taken these innovative workshops.

He received a masters in 1965 and a doctorate in 1969, both from the University of Illinois in Astronomy. He joined the WSU faculty in 1969 and became known internationally for his research on the distances of stars.

His interests included running, cross-country skiing, volleyball, back-packing, photography and woodworking. He enjoyed gardening and fixing things. He was an active member of the Pullman Rotary Club.

Dr. Lutz was a generous, insightful, gentle, intelligent and humble. He will be greatly missed.


New WSU Teaching Programs Are a Big Success

New Teaching Program at WSU is a Hit

In a unique pilot program at Washington State University (WSU), K-6 school teachers from far flung towns like Colton and Palouse came to campus for several days in February to train education students. The teachers were seasoned professionals and graduates from WSU's astronomy workshops. The students were sophomores just starting out. The idea of bringing the two groups together was a big success.

"The teachers loved it!" Jack Horne, an educator from WSU, said. "The kids loved it. This was an opportunity for them to talk to real teachers from the field."

The small group of visiting teachers were divided into four groups representing four rural towns in eastern Washington. Each group ran a full day of astronomy labs. Because of their experience, the teachers could demonstrate each exercise and talk about how to adapt them for different grade levels and how to use them in an elementary school setting where the class might be working on the floor. The program was "a tremendous experience," Mr. Horne said. WSU plans to continue it next year.

In another 1995 WSU pilot program, designed for prospective science teachers, seniors are getting a chance to practice their skills by teaching astronomy at Pullman Alternative High School. Other students in WSU's education program are getting a chance to teach as paid assistants who run labs and hand-on activities for various science classes on campus. All of these activities continue to fine-tune knowledge and abilities and help young science teachers learn to teach. For more information, contact Jack Horne at WSU at (509) 335-2452.


Astro Adventure Workshops Get High Marks

By Beth Harmon
Astro Adventure Workshop Leader, Pacific Science Center

Thanks to the University of Washington Space Grant Program, the Pacific Science Center has distributed the Astro Adventures curriculum to over 60 schools so far in Washington state. Our staff has traveled far and wide to bring this astronomy opportunity to rural and urban schools with a need and enthusiasm for additional astronomy instruction.

If success is measured in terms of professional growth, modified conceptions, and excitement for the subject, this program definitely receives high marks. As a result of the Astro Adventure workshops, over 500 teachers are spreading the word; the earth's shadow is not causing the phases of the moon. Others are digging up old star finders and realizing that the cardinal directions are placed correctly when the map is held above your head. After using the star finders, one teacher went home with the understanding that no matter where she placed her hot tub, she wouldn't be able to see Orion in the same place each night.

The workshops have not only altered some beliefs in astronomy, they have also inspired teachers to take astronomy instruction to a new level in their own schools. Many schools are using the curriculum to enhance the existing curriculum or prepare for visits from our Space Odyssey Van, while others are organizing evening sky watches for students and their families.

Interest in the Astro Adventure curriculum is also strong from outside the region. Iowa's Luther College ordered 20 for a spring workshop. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific has already placed several orders during the last six months, totaling 100 copies!

For more information, please call the Pacific Science Center at 206-443-2001 or the Space Grant Program at 1-800-659-1943 or 206-543-1943 in Seattle.


A New Look For Washington Space Grant

February 1, 1995 was a red letter day for the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. It heralded the beginning of our second five-year grant period from NASA. The new logo seen throughout this newsletter was designed to celebrate our achievement. A comet streaks over Mount Rainier to symbolize the beauty of space and the excitement of working in space and science education. We'd like to know what you think of our new design. Please email us at nasa@u.washington.edu