Friday, July 22, 2011

ISAS 2011 Academy 1 Day 6

Today, the ISAS Academy focused on offering students plenty of time to work on their mission and solidify each group’s presentation. The teams spent the entire morning discussing technical information with one another, debating different rocket designs and the best methods to cut costs. With Mars practically in their crosshairs, the students began to rush back and forth, attempting to create the best attempt possible for this Mars mission. However, despite the Mars mission being an important component; it has not been the focus of this Academy. The best thing these students can take from this Academy is an opportunity to become immersed within many different scientific fields and witness the real-world applications of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers. The Mars mission allows the students to experiment with the necessary combination of the many different scientific, economic, and political processes required to instigate a realistic scientific endeavor.

In order to take a break from all of the hard work, the students were given a short presentation about the field of Biomedical Engineering by Dr. Michelle Sabick. Afterwards, the students were taken on a tour of the Boise State University Engineering building and shown four different research projects. The first project dealt with a concept known as Extraterrestrial Dust Mechanics. Basically, this project studied dust motion and would be used to accurately measure the size and velocity of thousands of dust particles. This NASA funded project will possibly be used to sample Mars dust and better understand its makeup. Another project that the students were able to see was in the CMEMS Lab, where Dr. Don Plumlee gave a short presentation on his department. One of the projects he discussed with the students emphasized energy scavenging with the creation of a small unit in a backpack that would generate power due to the vibrations of the backpack as an individual walks. Dr. Jim Browning was another professor who was willing to show his laboratory to the scholars. He told the students how his research concerned small ion thrusters which can be placed on a spacecraft to more efficiently maneuver the spacecraft. The last presentation was of the Electron Microscope by Dan Osterberg and Nikki Lundy. The students were even shown images of individual atoms from the high powered microscope.

After a quick lunch, the students returned to the Engineering buildings in order to work further on their missions as well as the robots which they had started working on a few days ago. Some of the students were even happy to talk about how this experience has impacted them.

The students also gave their team’s presentations so all the students could get their information together and prepare for the presentations which they will give at the VIP luncheon tomorrow afternoon. They also wanted to have a critique of their presentations so the students could fine-tune any mistakes or problems that would arise. The students gave professional presentations which did require some corrections. However, the students have learned what type of presentations are required of a professional organization. With this knowledge, students can take their experiences from this Academy back to the classroom and possibly even further.

Students practicing presentations

One of the last events that the students did on this last full day was a robot competition which utilized the robots that the students put together earlier in the week. The competition consisted of the robots driving within a rectangular ring, searching for colored strips of paper. The rover which found the most papers and relayed that data correctly to a computer would win the event. Students crowded around the tiny ring as they watched their creations struggle around the ring. For many of the students, it was their first time using robotics and programming equipment. Every student found it interesting and fun to put them together and put them to the test.

One of the robots

The students spent the rest of the evening preparing for tomorrow’s presentations and finalizing their information. The students this year have done an amazing amount of work and have participated in a program that will help not only benefit their futures, but for them as young adults entering a new world through of scientific challenges.

These blogs will continue to be uploaded daily, once the students have completed their final activities each night. A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS Summer Academy Facebook group and page, as well as to Twitter at ISAS_Academy. Tomorrow will be the students' last day of the program. All of the staff at ISAS wish them good luck and are proud of all the work they have done.

--Andrew Schrader, Jaime Guevara--


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