Thursday, August 5, 2010

ISAS Day 5: Model Rockets and Astronauts

Despite coming home from Ames Research Center, the students continued exploring integral technologicial facilities by spending the morning touring Micron. The tour started with a powerpoint presentation concerning the main mission of Micron; creating memory units. The title of the presentation was, "Memory Makes the World Work", and it showed countless systems and everyday devices that use Micron semiconductors. An alternative project  Micron is involved with is Endoscopy pills. These pills are small cameras that are injested and as they move through the patient's system, film the esophogus and intestines in order to help doctors diagnose serious issues without invasive procedures. The students were also allowed to see some of the work that Micron is involved with concerning new automotive sensors. These new developments in technology are on the cutting edge and the students had an exclusive presentation.

Micron executive talking with the students
Next, the students were driven to another one of Micron's buildings and were toured about a chemistry lab, witnessed how Micron checks its wafers for inconsistencies, and were shown what atoms look like under an electron microscope. The electron microscope, called the TEM, gave the students the opportunity of seeing individual atoms interacting amongst one another. Many of the students wanted to operate the microscopes, but due to their 1.5 million dollar pricetag the students had to grudgingly surrender that position. Another thing that the students were able to discuss with the presenters was the future generation of LEDs. Many myths concerning LEDs were discussed and the videos the students watched displayed the wide variety of uses for LEDs and how common they have become in our culture. Probably the most entertaining event of the Micron visit was the students getting a chance to have hands-on interaction with some prototype personal projectors which could be used with gadgets such as Ipods and Iphones.

Although that was the most interesting event, the most appealing was the large lunch provided by Micron which the students took advantage of, even helping themselves to seconds. During lunch, the students were all given a gift by Micron; an LED light and a battery that can be used in many experiments. The students were surprised and thrilled to start finding interesting uses for their new LED lights.
Upon their return to Boise State University, the students immediatley plunged into work. They broke up into their teams and began to organize information for their final projects and created powerpoints to present in front of the rest of the ISAS students. Each team gave a presentation that was related to their mission objectives.

Red Team: Waves and Spectroscopy
Blue Team: The Basics of Launching
Grey Team: Rovers
White Team: Model Rockets

The students knew that the next speaker was going to discuss model rockets and display some of his creations, but no one had expected him to carry in a nine-foot tall missile that looked like something that  had fallen off a passing military jet. Don't despair though, the rocket was a model and not in the least bit dangerous, especially with it's engine removed. The rocket had already flown multiple times before and even had an onboard HD camera. Logging onto YouTube, the presenter showed some of his previous launch footage. The students all cheered as they witnessed the rocket's viewpoint as it accelerated into the air, reaching an altitude of nearly 13,000 feet. I'm sure many of the students wished they could have somehow been in that rocket, but seeing as it was only 8 inches across it was doubtful that they would have enjoyed it.

After the presenter was done with his discussion, the students had to focus hard on their mission parameters. Some of the students were even beginning to feel the effects of the time constraints and heated compromises began to appear. However, the students rose to the occasion and quickly organized themselves and easily became independent entity. The mentors were there to assist the students, although for the most part the students have had the independence and organizationial skills with which to operate by themselves.

Dinner was a quick event and the students were thrilled to share their dinner with former astronauts Barbara Morgan and Wendy Lawrence. The students quickly ate their food and got ready to go over to DCI in order to listen to a presentation on astronaut life and also on the International Space Station, which was given by Wendy Lawrence. A first person account of what it was like to compete in the elite program to becoming an astronaut was given to the students. She also mentioned that the ISS had been declared a national laboratory and the experiments in the ISS ranged from growing vegetables to basically the astronauts themselves. The students found it extremely interesting how astronauts have to exersize in order to ward off the negative effects of living in a low to no gravity environment. Their favorite story was about one astronaut who wanted to run the Boston marathon, but unfortunatley she was in orbit at the time. So, she called the marathon organizers and explained her situation. The organizers said she could have a race number and the astronaut competed in the marathon while in space by being tethered to a treadmill. When she had finished the 26 miles of the Boston marathon on the treadmill, the ISS had orbited the Earth three times. Another interesting fact that the students chuckled at was when Wendy Lawrence declared that, "Sleeping in space is like sleeping in the world's best waterbed!" It was obvious the students were enjoying themselves, many were leaning forward staring at the slide show composed of amazing pictures from space. Perhaps a few of them, if not all of them, will be able to call themselves astronauts in the near future.

Wendy Lawrence giving presentation

When the presentation was over the students were allowed a private question and answer session with Wendy Lawrence who described her experience in space as, "A very moving experience...a very emotional experience." The students asked an array of questions and were competing against one another to see who could stick their hand highest so that impressive astronaut in front would call on them for the next question.
The evening was relatively quiet as the students broke off into teams and began to work on many different projects. It was one of those nights where everything was beginning to come together, yet there was still a lot of work down the road. The students looked forward to tomorrow to delve deeper into their projects and finalize their missions to Mars. This academy will be good practice for the students when they attempt the mission, one day, for real.
Wendy Lawrence and Barbara Morgan talking with students

These blogs will continue to be posted every evening.  A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS: Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars' facebook page.

--Andrew Schrader and Jaime Guevara--

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