Thursday, July 12, 2012

ISAS 2012 Academy 1: Day 5

After returning from NASA Ames Research Center, the students were able to rest for a little while before continuing to visit more places. With a quick and early breakfast, the students piled into a coach which took them to Micron Technology for a day of exploration around a worldwide manufacturer of electronic goods. For those who do not know, Micron specializes in creating revolutionary memory units for computers and other devices. As the students were led into the factory, they were brought into a small conference room. While in the room, the students were shown a slide show and video detailing the products and applications of the memory units manufactured by Micron. 

Following the introductory videos, the students were taken to the new addition to the research and development fabrication area. Here the students were shown how Micron, and other companies like it, stay a step ahead of their competition by implementing various scientific and mathematical  methods not just for reducing costs but even to something as rudimentary as the building itself. The students were able to view the new fabrication rooms and were asked to try and put into perspective what Micron was trying to achieve here, by being able to look at the loading robots and even the gas pipes the students were humbled by the thought that something already big was small in comparison to the end goal: put the knowledge from the R&D fab into an actual production line five to ten times bigger. 

When the students were done touring the brand new building on Micron's campus, they were taken to the older main building and separated into groups in order to tour the various analysis labs that Micron has on its Boise campus. These labs showcased a wide range of analytical processes that Micron employs such as chemical analysis and even electron spectroscopy. The students were able to see that in order to even make a huge company focused on memory chips and processors work, all sorts of different fields such as math, science, and even public relations are necessary.

Even after their days at NASA Ames the students are still happy to hold up rockets
Upon completing the visit to Micron, the students were taken to Simplot Fields in order to witness a rocket being launched. After spending a good portion of the day inside Micron, the students were visibly refreshed by the sunlight and fresh air, regardless of the heat and smell of smoke from the fires near Boise. The students hiked across the grass of the field, carrying several of the rockets. The stands were set up and the first rocket was set up. Before its launch, though, everyone noticed a couple new people. The media company that was hired to film the events of the two sessions showed up for their first day at work, equipped with cameras and a boom microphone. This only helped fuel the excitement for the rockets. The button was pressed and the first rocked zoomed to the sky leaving students shielding their eyes and following the screaming rocket as it ascended higher and higher. Upon reaching its zenith, the rocket plummeted back towards the crowd of students until its parachute deployed. The students erupted in cheers as the rocket slowly floated back down and landed only a few hundred feet away. The students then loaded back into the bus, happy to be back into the air conditioning, and headed back to Boise State. They spent the following two hours working even harder on their projects. Then dinner followed.  

Even with a beautiful take-off, this rocket showed the students that just as important as checking the take-off is checking the landing equipment

 At the end of the academic day, Wendy A. Lawrence, former NASA astronaut, did an interactive discussion with the students. Coming prepared with a PowerPoint, and her more than ample knowledge of space travel and how to approach a trip to Mars. After giving a brief history of her experiences, she dived directly into the topic. The main focus of the night was several different areas that she warned students to take account of when planning their trips to Mars. These problems are ones that have been impacting astronauts on the International Space Station. Those issues included: radiation, bone density loss, solar flares and vision loss. After addressing these concerns, she turned it over to the students to ask questions. Almost all of the questions directly pertained to the research that the students have been doing over the past few days. However, many students asked questions of curiosity, “What's your favorite part of being an astronaut?” One student asked. “The take off,” she said, “It seems trite, but it's quite a kick in the pants.” A bit later another student asked, “What do you do for fun in the International Space Station?” With a quick and exciting retort of, “We're weight-less!” All in all, for the academics portion of the day, today was rather successful; however it didn't mark the end. 

NASA astronaut, Wendy Lawrence, teaching the students on the valuable topic of the psychological and physical effects of space travel on people

The students were finally able to let off some steam and relax with a good few rounds of bowling and billiards in the Student Union Building. For the first time all session the students were given extra time to just play around, relax and have some scheduled free time to socialize and have a blast.

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. The students are eager to continue work on their missions as they prepare for the last day of work on their mission and presentations.
--Heidi Hughes and Jaime Guevara--

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