Monday, August 1, 2011

ISAS 2011 Academy 2 Day 2

The students’ day began with a trip to the Simplot/Micron building at Boise State University, where they had a video conference with the NASA Chief Historian Dr. Bill Barry. Dr. Barry discussed the importance of space exploration not only to NASA, but also to the technological advancements consumers enjoy every day. The students were able to witness a complete view of NASA’s responsibilities to society from space flights to education. Students were able to receive a personal and in-depth discussion about exactly what NASA wants to pursue now that the space shuttle has been retired. Students also were surprised to learn about the newest influence of private sector companies on space travel. When given the opportunity, students were encouraged to ask questions concerning the future of space exploration, tips for their missions here at ISAS, as well as recommendations for their futures. 

The students then traversed across campus to the Boise State Engineering Building in order to listen to Jason Budinoff, an Aerospace Engineer from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He discussed with the students what responsibilities would be expected from the four different teams. The discussion opened with a quote that set the mood for the rest of the Academy, “You guys are all now NASA.” His personal experience in the field proved valuable in helping the students understand the gravity of the project they were undertaking. After learning what jobs they were to be involved with, the four teams (Red, Gray, Blue, and White) split up the Mars mission into four separate arenas: Mission Integration, Getting There, Living There, and Working There. The students became more lively and inquisitive upon hearing what was going to be required of them throughout the next week.

Students listening to Jason Budinoff

The guidelines for their mission were purposefully vague: Go to the Poles (on Mars), Stay for 30 days, and Come back. After discussion, the students split up into teams to debate further the goals of their teams and to develop the mission outline into a detailed mission plan. They then grouped back together, and presented their research to the entire Academy. They also had the opportunity to share their findings with Jason Budinoff where he was able to critique their work.

When the students returned from lunch, they were met with a discussion with Superintendent Tom Luna. He impressed upon the students the importance of education, and how the world has become entirely reliant upon information. “We have transitioned to an information age, and we need to make sure we have prepared students for an information age.” He discussed how students in Idaho are doing fairly well compared to national standards, but national standards are no longer the only necessary regulation that students need to adhere to. The Superintendent stressed how students now, and in the future, will be competing for jobs and internships on a grand international scale. The students were also applauded for their success, and given a challenge. “We set a high expectation, you guys have risen to that expectation…then you get to back to school next year to hopefully be a positive influence on other students about Math, Science, and Engineering…Be the leaders in your school.” Superintendent Luna wanted to let the students know that the newest standards of education in Idaho, are standards that are necessary for their success,“These standards are career and college ready.” He then opened the floor to the students to ask questions and hold a conversation. The students were responsive, and asked many different questions concerning education in Idaho, and what is being done to improve it for future students. 

“We have transitioned to an information age, and we need to make sure we have prepared students for an information age.” -- Superintendent Tom Luna

Students then split to work in their teams even further in order to meet their deadlines. After working for an hour, the students were then able to listen to a presentation about rockets by Corey Morasch from Micron  and Dr. David Hassinger. The students were amazed as a twelve foot rocket was casually brought into the lecture hall. The students learned about different fuels and rockets that are available to the everyday hobbyist, and were even able to watch videos of launches from both spectator and rocket point of views. 


The students were also given a presentation from Boise State University’s own Microgravity University Team. The students were fascinated with the stories from the Microgravity Team about their rides and experiments in the Zero G plane, affectionately known as the “Vomit Comet”. Both presentations helped the students gain a stronger understanding of the limitations of trying to reach space and what is necessary to remain in space.

Later in the evening, the students were also visited by Woody Sobey From the Discovery Center of Idaho  for a course in robotics. Four students from each team who expressed interest in robotics were selected to work on the team’s rovers. Being such a complicated system, Woody let the students know that they were about to cram a week’s worth of material into about a three hour time slot. The students immediately rolled up their sleeves and dived into working on the robots. Many different students took charge and displayed impressive leadership skills when organizing the robots. They all impressively worked hard to make their robots respond to different programs and follow a rigid set of instructions. The students who decided to not work on the robots split up into different computer labs to work on their mission. Students researched and held meetings throughout the evening, looking forward to the exciting day of travel which lay ahead.

Students working on robots

With the day winding down, the students began to prepare themselves for the exciting trip to NASA Ames Research Center during day three and four of the ISAS Summer Academy. 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 page, as well as to Twitter at ISAS_Academy. The students have established themselves as mission control and are now ready for the trip to Ames Research Center. 

--Andrew Schrader, Jaime Guevara, LaCinda Villanueva--

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