Expanding Frontiers Spring 1996
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:
- UW's Lunar Engineers Have the Right Stuff
- NASA Scholars Ready to Launch
- Clouds & Quakes Scholarships for Teachers
- SCI-ence Live!
- New Cosmos Goes National
- NASA Scholarship Winners To Graduate in New Century
- Space Grant Student Pursues Galactic Dreams
- WSU Is Training Astronomy Detectives
Lunar Engineers Have the Right Stuff
On a recent afternoon in the University of Washington's More Hall, several civil engineering students spent more than an hour looking under the hood of a DB1000. Built for speed and efficiency, DB or Dust Buster, as it is affectionately called, is a sleek little robot designed to save lives. One of its functions is to carry lunar dirt (regolith) to a containment system which acts as radiation shielding for a lunar habitat. In that way, this stylized front end loader will protect the crews which reside on the moon.
DB is real, but of course, the rest is a futuristic fantasy. The mechanics, DB's creators, are on a UW team sponsored by the ECSEL (Engineering Coalition of Schools for Excellence in Education and Leadership) program and Washington NASA Space Grant. In June, they and their faculty advisor, Philip Dunston, will travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico to compete in the Second Annual Lunar Construction contest.
Now in his second year of teaching, Dunston was the first African American faculty member to be hired in the UW's Civil Engineering Department. He is also the first recipient of the Washington NASA Space Grant's faculty award. This award has funded a graduate student, Space Grant fellow Christine Engan, to be the project leader and provides some travel support for the team.
In the contest scenario, NASA has established the first permanent base on the moon. Unhappily, the base will soon face an increase of solar radiation. Radiation shielding must be installed and NASA is seeking "bids". Four college teams have responded to the call.
They will have 45 minutes to demonstrate their design, the result of a year of hard work. Their bids will be judged on a combination of a written report, an oral presentation, and performance of scale model equipment.
It will be a race to the finish.
The 10 students, mostly from Civil Engineering, have designed a lightweight containment system (one of the DBs has to carry it to the site) with a collapsible aluminum frame and a nylon bag. The purpose of the frame is to hold the bag in place and position it around the habitat. Since all operations must be performed by remote control, the robots will have to be extremely reliable. "You're very idealistic when you design things," Christine said. "The problem with troubleshooting is that it takes more time."
Christine and her team (which includes her brother, Michael, a Space Grant undergraduate student) have been racing against time all year to design and build their equipment to strict contest specifications. It's almost show time. "We have a definite deadline in June and we're going to be there--ready or not."
Of the four teams competing, two are returning, having competed in the First Annual Lunar Construction Contest. This is the UW's first entry.
"I think they are performing admirably," Dunston said. "They've picked up skills. They've learned to interact as a group."
He has every confidence that in Albuquerque, the UW team will show the right stuff.
NASA Scholars Ready to Launch
Another crew of NASA Space Grant scholars is graduating in June and launching into the world of research, industry and academics.
Amy Darke recently received a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and will be continuing her studies in statistics at the UW.
Elizabeth Frame, a double major in cell/molecular biology and biochemistry, traveled to Antarctica on a research vessel this winter with Dr. Evelyn Lessard of Oceanography. She will continue to work with Dr. Lessard this summer and plans to work for a local biotech laboratory before going to graduate school.
Dan Steward is one step closer to a long-time dream of being a doctor. The biochemistry major was recently accepted into the UW Medical School for the fall.
Space Grant congratulates these fine scholars and wishes them the best in all of their endeavors.
Clouds & Quakes Scholarships for Teachers
Scholarships are still available for Meteorology and Geology for Teachers (Geophysics 480A), a practical 4-credit course for middle school and intermediate level elementary teachers of science and Earth science.
This lively and engaging professional experience will be offered for four weeks during Term A of Summer Quarter, June 24-July 19, 1996, Monday through Thursday, from 9:00 to 12:30 p.m. on the UW campus. At press time, Washington Space Grant has several scholarships available to cover four credits of tuition (undergraduate or graduate at the student's choice) and the course books. For an application, please contact the Space Grant office at 1-800-659-1943.
SCI-ence Live (Science Curriculum Institute) is not just any teachers workshop. This intensive program will put K-12 teachers in the dual role of learner and curriculum developer. The institute will meet 9:00 - 12:00 and 1:00 - 3:00 Monday through Thursday July 8 through 25 on the UW campus.
Participants may earn 6 credits of Geophysics 480 for approximately $130 (through the UW Extension). "Clock hours" will be offered free for those not desiring credit. If selected to participate, teachers will receive a $400 stipend! While collaborating with other teachers and university scientists, participants will increase their knowledge of Earth and space science concepts and learn how to use the Internet as a powerful, accessible and inexpensive teaching tool.
SCI-ience Live is hosted by the NASA-funded Live From Earth and Mars (LEM). Space Grant Associate Director and LEM Co-Investigator Janice DeCosmo will be one of the instructors for SCI-ience Live.
For an application, please contact Rich Edgarton at 543-1456 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Cosmos Goes National
"The New Cosmos: Eyes on the Universe" series, hosted by Space Grant Associate Director Pinky Nelson, recently went primetime. For three nights last month, the public packed into UW's Kane Hall to attend a special lecture series by Astronomy Professors Donald Brownlee, Bruce Margon, and Craig Hogan, three UW faculty prominent in history's richest epoch in astronomical research.
Thanks to UWTV (Cable Channel 27), the popular lectures reached audiences of cable views in the Seattle area, Eastern Washington and Northern California. The same UWTV production was carried nationwide in late May on NTV, the NASA television satellite channel.
NASA Scholarship Winners to Graduate in New Century
Now in its fifth year, the Washington NASA Space Grant Scholarship Competition continues to draw the best and the brightest from all over the state. Each fall, high school seniors vie for a chance to study science, engineering or math at the University of Washington, one of the country's premier research facilities.
This year, 285 students sent applications laden with talents and interests, insightful essays, top SAT scores, and sterling recommendations. To narrow the field down from 285 to a mere 32 was daunting, nevertheless, by March, 32 finalists had been selected. Eager for victory, they arrived on campus for their final interviews. Brilliant students all, they came, saw and conquered. Thanks to matching funds provided by the UW Office of Student Affairs, the Donnergaard Family Endowment, the Sigurd Olsen Endowment and the Penwest Corporation, Space Grant 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, 1997. For applications or questions, please contact the Space Grant Program at 1-800-659-1943, or in the Seattle area at (206) 543-1943.
The NASA Space Grant Scholars for 1996
Blanchet High School
Space Grant Student Pursues Galactic Dreams
Space Grant scholarship recipient Lisa Reid hails from Olympia, Washington and is a member of the Snohomish Tribe. On a family hiking trip in the Cascades when she was 10, she had an life altering experience. She looked up from a campfire and saw a huge meteor that moved through the atmosphere so slowly it seemed to hang in the sky for seconds. Burning majestically through the dark, it was beautiful. "That meteor got me to look up to the sky and wonder what was actually up there."
The mysteries of space captured her attention and after her parents bought her a 4-in reflector telescope, Lisa spent hours pinpointing the polar ice caps of Mars and charting the routes of Jupiter's moons.
It should be no surprise that nine years later, Lisa found herself at NASA's Ames Research Center. The summer intern was staring at the cargo bay of a Boeing 747. She was part of a team, working on a telescope for Project SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy). Her task that day was to figure out how to place three giant vacuum pumps in the cargo bay of a 747, kind of a big job. To complete it, the enterprising intern would study old drawings of 747's, scour catalogs to find the right parts, and work closely with staff scientists to come up with a design. If there was a problem with corrosive gas running through the whole system, they would handle it together. It was all in a day's work at NASA Ames, yet another fascinating chapter in Lisa's book of days.
She has spent the past three summers working at Ames and will begin a six month coop at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) this June. When she graduates next year, this aspiring astronaut feels like she's going to be more ready for the real world than most. "NASA is such a fun company to work for!" she said. "Even if you are just a student, you can go around to the other labs and ask questions, and the scientists are very eager and excited to answer them."
Along with working on Project SOFIA, Lisa has designed the vibrational test stand for a telescope model and also the visual scroll mechanism for an advanced animal habitat to be placed in a shuttle. She has worked largely on her own. "It was nice to feel that I had big responsibilities and they trusted me."
One of the thrills of returning to Ames three summers in a row was to design something and then came back the next year and use the product she'd designed. "I was really glad that I got real engineering jobs rather than just being used as a go-fer. It was a wonderful experience!"
Lisa is now back at the University of Washington to complete her undergraduate degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. Along with her studies, she devotes her time to several activities close to her heart. A member of AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society), she and several others have been working with our state's Native American middle and high school students, bringing them to campus for visits and encouraging them to finish high school and go to college. Lisa is also actively promoting Spirit Walk, a pledge walk to help fight drug and alcohol abuse in the Native American community. She is also an accomplished equestrian who has competed in the US Nationals and loves to go home on weekends to ride one of her family's Arabians.
Ever since she saw a sign in the heavens as a child, this dedicated scholar has followed the stars. She's gone to NASA Ames and back again and now to JPL. Four years ago, she won a full four year Space Grant scholarship which she said has allowed her "to pursue my dream." Her dream? Someday, as a NASA astronaut, she'd like a ticket all the way to Mars.
WSU Is Training Astronomy Detectives
By Vicki Martin, Franklin Elementary School, Pullman
In 1991, Washington State University offered a unique chance for area teachers, such as myself, to expand our knowledge via a Fall astronomy workshop. I joined a cadre of 21 teachers from the first seven week session who took the advanced workshop the following year. WSU's Jack Horne and the late Dr. Tom Lutz led us through the activities and field trips. Their inductive, hands-on approach to science instruction provided a model for us to take back to the classroom. We worked with temperatures around the world, shadow boards, phases of the Moon, cratering and constellations, to name just a few topics. These excellent activities were very easy to adapt to different grade levels.
When my class of second graders studies the solar system each year, we spend about a month observing the Moon. After the workshops, I had the students look out the window and determine how high the Moon was in the sky by counting the number of fists they could make hand over hand from the horizon to the Moon.
On Moon Day, the students visited several stations in the classroom. One of these was the moon phase center. Here, the students were given eight photographs of the Moon in different phases. They worked in teams of four to come to consensus about how the photos should be arranged, and then taped the photographs and an explanation of why they made their choices on a sheet of paper. We displayed these sheets for about two weeks. The teams could change their minds and rearrange their photos any time they wanted. At the end of the two weeks after much class discussion, they made their final choices and the correct sequence was revealed.
We also used maps of the Moon to decide the base landing sites for the make-believe shuttle. The students came to the conclusion that craters were not the place to land. We talked about how craters could be made. Finally, we compared the students' landing sites to the Apollo landing sites.
Students then moved on to a cratering activity, testing what kind of depressions different size objects make in pans of sand. The class varied the height, weight, and size of the object dropped and measured the depth and width of the craters they made.
One group worked with a parent volunteer to test how high they could jump vertically. They used this data to figure out how high they could jump on the Moon.
We were able to teach our students many things about the Moon thanks to the WSU workshops.
Now in their fifth year, these popular workshops are funded by WSU and the Washington NASA Space Grant Program. For more information, contact Jack Horne at (509) 335-2452.