Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Expanding Frontiers Fall/Winter 2006

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Table of Contents:


Research opportunities increase for undergraduates statewide

Breana and Aaron working

SCCC students Breana Merriweather and Aaron Capps cast fuel grain for their team's rocket motor during a summer training workshop in Utah.

Students from Washington Space Grant member colleges and universities will have more opportunities for hands-on research, thanks to a new grant from NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

The $40,000 award will allow Space Grant to expand the number of private industry internships and team awards offered, as well as support senior design programs at the University of Washington and Washington State University.

"These awards support research geared toward human space exploration," said Acting Space Grant Director Julie Lutz. "Think rockets, constructing and maintaining moonbases—things like that."

This fall, a WSU team of engineering seniors began design work on algorithms and controllers for applications in networks used in space exploration. A UW course begins in January.

The Seattle Central Community College Rocket Team received the first team award for participation in a national competition. In January, the team will travel to Utah to compete in the Second Annual Rocket Launch Competition.

The team includes current SCCC students and alumni now at the University of Washington. Most are engineering or pre-engineering majors. Last summer, several took part in a training workshop to hone their rocket building skills.

"It was long, grueling days, but worth it," said team member Aaron Capps. The team's practice rocket reached 10,000 feet. The actual competition in January promises to be even more exciting, team members say.


WWU fellow maps Elwha River

David Dow

David Dow

Researchers analyzing changes in the Elwha River ecosystem after the dam is removed in 2009 will thank David Dow for his work last summer.

The Western Washington University fellow utilized Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to map patterns of bird distribution in the area, collecting baseline data from 250 points along the river. The data can be used to forecast avian responses to the dam's removal.

"There is scant research into the ecological impact of removing dams," David wrote in his grant proposal. His study aimed to document existing habitat, apply predictive models and provide data for comparison with conditions following the removal.

David, who received a $3,600 Space Grant research award, is pursuing a master's in education.

He became interested in teaching after working with habitat restoration and environmental outreach projects.

"Working with kids became a bigger part of my job," he said. "I could see a lot of personal growth in the kids just from short-term projects."

David plans to teach middle and high school biology, as well as general science.


SG's newest member: Seattle University

This fall Seattle University joined the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium, increasing the consortium's academic membership to 10 colleges and universities.

Two $3,500 Space Grant research scholarships will be provided to SU undergraduates majoring in physical science or engineering. The scholarships will support the students' summer research.

Funds are also being provided for supplies, and for students to travel to the American Astronomical Society meeting to present the results of their research. SU students will also be eligible to apply for Space Grant-sponsored research internships and programs such as NASA Academy.

In 2001, SU sonography major Nicole White joined a University of Washington team aboard a NASA reduced gravity flight to map the movement of human organs in different gravities in the hopes of making it easier to predict organ locations in space.

Her research later took top honors in the W. Frederick Sample Student Excellence Award competition, sponsored by the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (SDMS).

Space Grant membership is intended to increase the students' exposure to research programs, boost the likelihood of their remaining in science and engineering, and improve their preparation for graduate school.

Joanne Hughes Clark, associate professor of physics, will represent Space Grant on campus. In November, the first presentation on NASA student opportunities was held on the SU campus.


SG scholars gather from near and far

MStudents with posters

URA recipient Laura Kushner explains her work with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to Beata McCommas, wife of fellow astronomy major and Space Grant community college transfer scholar Les McCommas. Behind them, Les explains his SURP work to fellow transfer scholar James Flahaven. For more reception information, please download our 2006 program (6.38MB).

On Sept. 29, more than 70 student researchers presented the results of their work to University of Washington faculty, family and fellow students at the Space Grant Reception and Poster Session.

The annual event in the UW's East Ballroom brought together Space Grant-supported student researchers and research teams from UW, Western Washington University, Washington State University and Seattle Central Community College.

"The Space Grant students continue to amaze me every year with their boldness, hard work, and enthusiasm for their work," said John Sahr, associate dean of UW's Undergraduate Academic Affairs. "It restores and builds my own professional interest in research."

Student researchers work on campus and in the field. While UW senior Christopher Thouvenel spent his summer in the laboratory performing random point mutations on tuberculosis bacteria, WWU grad student James Fegel set up a solar-powered, remote-controlled webcam in Sumas, at one of the largest active landslides in Washington. For students, the reception is a chance to inspire each other and share common interests with people they might not meet on their own campus.

Space Grant JPL intern Brent Allen, who serves as the WSU robotics club president, said the event gave him a chance to compare engineering notes with Monty Reed, a Space Grant Summer Undergraduate Research Program participant, about the UW student's work on a high-tech exoskeleton that may one day enable quadriplegics to walk.

This year Space Grant awarded scholarships to 15 incoming freshmen and four community college transfer students. Fifty-one students received continuing awards. Space Grant scholars also receive support from the Louise and Irving R. Donnergaard Endowment, the Sigurd Olsen Endowment and the Mary Gates Endowment for Students.


Taking science education beyond the classroom

The NASA Science Mission Directorate's Community-based Organizations Working Group has changed its name to the Out-of-School Time Working Group (OSTWG).

The group works on ways to adapt NASA science education materials for use by out-of-school time organizations such as the Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, library programs, summer camps and a variety of other settings outside the regular classroom, said the group's co-chair Julie Lutz, acting Space Grant director and director of Space Science Network Northwest (S2N2).

Several NASA educator guides already offer activities adapted for use outside the classroom. Among the topics groups might seek to explore are astrobiology and the solar system.

OSTWG brings together NASA education and public outreach professionals with leaders from organizations such as the National Institute for Out-of-School Time, the Coalition for Science After School and the National AfterSchool Association.

The working group also advises the NASA Science Mission Directorate on what out-of-school time organizations need most and on "best practices" for scientists who want to work with the organizations.

The OSTWG Web site offers information on major out-of-school time programs and professional groups, as well as references to research studies and position papers that are impacting this fast-changing field of informal education.


Undergraduate scholarship applications now online

Scholarship applications for incoming freshmen and community college transfer students planning to attend the University of Washington are now available online at the Space Grant Web site.

Students who plan to study science, technology, engineering or math are eligible to apply for Space Grant scholarships. Space Grant awards approximately 20-25 UW scholarships annually. The awards are based on academic achievement, standardized test scores, personal essays, recommendations and future academic promise.

Scholarships range from $1,000 to $5,000 and are awarded for one year at a time. Recipients may apply for renewal, depending on availability of funding, and provided that they maintain program requirements for their majors and a satisfactory GPA. Renewal applications can be made for up to four years for incoming freshmen; two years for transfer students.

The scholarship program is designed to create a small college atmosphere within the larger university. Along with financial support, scholars receive help with registration, campus resources and academic advising, can participate in the Space Grant mentor program and have the option of living on the Space Grant dormitory floor.

In the past, Space Grant scholars have won Goldwater scholarships and become regional Marshall and Rhodes Scholar finalists (and, as of last month, Rhodes winners). Many continue on for advanced degrees.

Applications from incoming freshmen must be postmarked Jan. 13, 2007. Community college transfer students have until March 24, 2007.


SCCC awards five Space Grant scholarships

Deprived of a formal education and barred from studying math or science until age 15, Zenith Morrison-Weiss developed a passion for biology.

But she feared that her high school efforts to catch up with her peers would never be enough to allow her to succeed in the sciences. Instead, in 1999, she completed her undergraduate degree in history at the University of Washington.

As she traveled through the Middle East and Africa, she became increasingly interested in the issues of providing clean water.

"In 2004, I spent a summer volunteering in Tanzania," she said. "I was again impressed by the complexity of water resource problems and the need for practical solutions."

She is now enrolled at Seattle Central Community College, pursuing her deferred dream of a career in science. Zenith plans to complete her UW degree in botany and microbiology, with the goal of becoming a biochemistry researcher.

This year, five SCCC students received $2,500 Space Grant scholarships.

James Gray, a former 4H chapter president who grew up in rural Washington, holds a 4.0 GPA. After transferring, he plans to pursue a UW bachelor's degree in physics with a minor in mathematics.

After graduation in the spring, Celeste Hoffman plans to transfer and pursue a degree in civil engineering. Celeste says that the scholarship makes it possible for her to work fewer hours and concentrate more on her studies. Her eventual goal is a master's degree in structural engineering.

Debra Johnson's ultimate goal is to pursue graduate research in the area of quantum/particle physics. She hopes her transfer to the UW physics department and a career in the field will make her a role model for her 3-year-old daughter and other young girls who might believe "the societal pressures that mathematics and physics aren't 'girly' pursuits."

Travis Stanley is the first member of his family to attend college. He holds a 3.9 GPA and plans to pursue a degree in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington.


From California labs to African skies, JPL puts interns to the test

Adam working

Adam Przybilla of Seattle Central Community College works on the electronic control system for a JPL optical communications project.

When Greg Quetin applied as a summer intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he never expected to be working on a radar research team chasing monsoons off the coast of Cape Verde in Africa.

But life-changing experiences like his—rarely available to undergraduates—are exactly why Space Grant established the annual JPL internship program. This year six students from around the state received internships.

Quetin, a UW aeronautical and astronautical engineering major, had participated in Space Grant's Summer Undergraduate Research Program and was familiar with radar when he arrived in California. As a member of the NASA African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (NAMMA) team, he worked in the lab and on test flights in North Dakota.

But he says he was surprised when his mentor selected him to spend 25 days overseas testing the instruments and the experience shifted his thinking on graduate school.

"More and more, I'm thinking about atmospheric physics," he said. "I'd been thinking about it before, but this showed me some of the things I could do with it."

Brent Allen, an electrical engineering major from Washington State University, spent his summer pursuing his passion for robotics.

One day robots will aid in lunar and Mars exploration by building facilities before their human counterparts arrive, said Allen, president of the WSU robotics club.

To do that, however, they will need to move over different kinds of terrain—one of the biggest challenges facing designers. "I was working on improving walking and vision [of the robot]," he said. "We have plans to make it eventually think for itself and learn from humans."

JPL internships were also awarded to Daniel Strother of WSU; Scott Moon and Angela Stickle, both of UW, and Adam Przybilla of Seattle Central Community College. All four are engineering majors.


Persistence pays off in success for SCCC microgravity team

Carole (Violette) Manning

Before her team starts work, SCCC student Carole (Violette) Manning take a spin aboard NASA's C-9B aircraft to get used to moving in reduced gravity.

Seattle Central Community College's microgravity team worked down to the last day before their flight at NASA Johnson Space Center to make sure their experiment would withstand 25,000 feet of space-like pressure.

"We tried about five different epoxies," recalled team member Seth Gordon. "In the end, it worked and that's what counts."

The team wouldn't have settled for anything less.

Undergraduate teams from around the country compete each year for a chance to perform experiments aboard a specially modified NASA aircraft that simulates weightlessness. The SCCC team was the only community college team to fly last July.

In addition to Gordon, flight team members include Carol (Violette) Manning, James Jenson, Michael King and David Chapman. SCCC Instructor Rebecca Hartzler and UW Professor Tom Matula served as faculty advisors.

The SCCC team's journey began two years ago when a group of physics students proposed an experiment to use ultrasound to remove bubbles from a heating element in reduced gravity, a process that has the potential to increase the efficiency of heating devices in spacecraft.

The students formed the Seattle Central Space Club, then began writing, designing, building and fundraising. Space Grant provided ongoing support. Twice their flights were cancelled.

Several members of the original team have graduated, but they continue to pursue their passion for engineering. For example, Freddy Gella (now a UW senior majoring in mechanical engineering) serves as chassis technical lead for UW motorsports Formula SAE team.

Other students who took part in developing the project were UW senior Francisco Gomez-Gamino, Min Kyeong Lee, Amina Negash, Panita Pichawong and UW junior Adam Przybilla.


UW-SEDS & the Pasconauts take to the sky

SEDS team members

On Aug. 6, the UW chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-UW) and their student partners from Pasco High School took to the air to test their investigations into water-air surface interfaces in microgravity.

With Space Grant support, Pasco teacher David Hege and students Stefanie Garcia and Ariel Hale boarded the Zero Gravity Corporation's modified Boeing 727-200 last August and conducted their experiment.

Accompanying them were SEDS-UW members Annamarie Askren, Jeff Boulware and Michael Frostad. The UW team conducted a follow-up to the fluid mechanics experiment that Jeff conducted two years ago aboard a NASA microgravity flight.


Partnership benefits HU interns

For the past several years, Heritage University faculty and students have been improving their Access to Space program and developing models and programs to analyze images obtained from NASA satellites.

Working in partnership with Topp Tech Services Inc. (an environmental firm founded by HU alumni), the University awarded a Space Grant summer internship to Paul Burdeaux, a senior in environmental sciences.

As an intern, Paul modified a re-entry vehicle for Access to Space, the school's high altitude balloon program. Two launches are planned to complete the testing. He also tested film and digital imaging systems that emulate LANDSAT images.


Alumni News: Where are they now?

Natacha Chough

Natacha Chough

Natacha Chough,'01, recently won the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship and began medical school at the University of Michigan. Natacha's goal is to become a NASA flight surgeon.

A SURP and NASA Academy participant, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in cellular and molecular biology. Since then, she has worked at NASA JPL and the Kennedy Space Center, preparing the 2003 Mars rovers for launch.

After two years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Turkmenistan, she participated in Russia's Space Medicine and Biology School at the Moscow Institute for Biomedical Problems, learning about the applications of space technology to public health. She plans to continue contributing to the fields of international and public health.

Madeline "Maddy" Hartnell, '05, is working at The Boeing Co. as a cabin systems engineer, overseeing installation of the in-flight entertainment system for the new 787. A Space Grant scholar, Maddy graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

David Meyer, '04, is currently serving in Iraq as a mechanical construction engineer with the National Guard. A Space Grant scholar and U.S. Navy veteran, he received his UW degree in mechanical engineering.

Space Grant scholar and SURP researcher Christine Palermo, '00, is entering her second year of medical school at University of Hawaii. Christine, a biochemistry major, was featured on the UW Web site, Learning@ the Leading Edge, for her research with the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, discovering a drug-resistant strain of bacterium that has implications for future HIV treatment.

Christine continues to work with UW researchers. In 2005, she participated in Summer Training on Aging Research Topics in Mental Health (START-MH) under mentor and UW Professor Dr. Wayne McCormick.

Alumni, share your news

Tell us what major events have happened in your life: a new job, marriage, children, retirement, advanced degrees, you name it.

Mail to: Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium, Box 351310, Seattle, WA 98195-1310, or e-mail nasa@u.washington.edu


SG Scholars' Achievements

At Whitman College, a Space Grant scholarship was awarded to biology major Jillian Varonin. Geology majors Chris Iacoboni and Morgan Zeliff received Space Grant student research awards for their study of seismic hazards on the Olympic Peninsula. Both graduated in June.

Weston Lowrie—a UW graduate student pursuing a masters degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering—received a Space Grant Private Industry summer internship with Tethers Unlimited, Inc. The Bothell-based research and development company specializes in advanced space technologies.

Space Grant scholar Mei Liu, an electrical engineering major, was selected as a UW nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University.

JPL interns Daniel Strother and Brent Allen, both WSU electical engineering majors, won first place at Robothon, the Seattle Robotics Society's national competition.

In other news from UW Space Grant scholars, electrical engineering major Laura Grupp completed a summer internship with Fluke Corporation, an experience she says rekindled her interest in computers. She now plans to focus on the digital and software side of her field. Chemistry major Carie Frantz is back from a year of studying chemistry at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universitöt in Freiburg, Germany. David Englund, a math and statistics major, joined Gov. Christine Gregoire, Regent William H. Gates Sr., and UW President Mark A. Emmert on stage to kick off the next phase of Creating Futures, the university's eight-year, $2 billion fund-raising campaign. Astronomy and physics major Suzanne Hayward spent her second summer as a researcher in New Mexico. This time she was immersed in the concepts of solar physics and the study of polarimetry data at the National Solar Observatory.


SPACE GRANT NEWS

PSC educator receives international award

Dennis Schatz, co-director of Washington State LASER and vice president of education for the Pacific Science Center, was named an ASTC Fellow by the Association of Science-Technology Centers, the international association of science and technology centers, museums and organizations. This distinction, awarded to only 24 people in the group's history, recognizes outstanding lifetime contributions in the field of science education.

Dennis has been instrumental in building PSC's science education outreach program into the largest in the country. He has collaborated closely with Space Grant on K-12 education and outreach projects for more than 15 years including the Space Spot mall displays and the popular astronomy curriculum, Astro Adventures.

Dennis has collaborated closely with Space Grant on K-12 education and outreach projects for more than 15 years including the popular astronomy curriculum, Astro Adventures.

Key Peninsula soars at NASA rocket launch

student team members

Last June a student team from Key Peninsula Middle School—Washington's first NASA Explorer School—traveled to the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to see their experiment launched 25 miles above Earth aboard a NASA Orion rocket.

John Morton, Tricia Floyd, Mrs. Joanna Hiatt, Rebecca Saar and Austin Bowen received instruction in rocketry and electronics. The experience gave the students a unique opportunity to participate in all aspects of a science mission.

Phil Eberspeaker, chief of the NASA Sounding Rockets Program Office said the students designed the experiment, built the hardware, participated in the launch process, supported removing the experiments from the payload after launch and recovery, analyzed the data and presented their results.

In other Explorer School news, Key Peninsula teacher Phyllis Isbell joined a team of teachers and scientists in Chile's Atacama Desert as part of NASA's Spaceward Bound project. The teachers, along with planetary experts and technologists demonstrating communications and robot rover technology, were studying the border between life and sterility in the arid region, known for similarities to the moon and Mars.

AFA honors Explorer School teacher

The Washington State Air Force Association selected Explorer School team leader Kareen Borders as their Washington State 2006 Teacher of the Year.

The honor comes on the heels of her selection as one of 18 teachers nationwide for 2006-2007 Teacher Leaders in Research Based Science Education.

A teacher at Key Peninsula Middle School in Lakebay, she designed and implemented the school's NASA Family Nights, where students and families participate in an evening of aerospace lectures and activities using NASA education materials. She also designed an aerospace elective course for eighth graders, and serves on the national NASA Family and Community Outreach Committee.

Astronomy in the classroom

Teachers and comet models

A swarm of comets advance on the sun during the Astounding Astronomy workshop at Heritage University in Toppenish.

The Astounding Astronomy workshop at Heritage University in Toppenish drew 25 teachers of grades 4-9, mostly from schools in eastern and central Washington.

The July workshop, sponsored by Washington NASA Space Grant and Space Science Network Northwest (S2N2), covered topics required by the Washington State Essential Academic Learning Requirements.