Monday, July 16, 2012

ISAS 2012 Academy 1: Day 6

The computer lab was packed with ISAS students today. They were sprawled out on the floor, cutting and gluing paper to tri-fold boards. Others were on the edges of their chairs, reading last minute research online, and others had powerpoint pulled up on their screens adding and writing slides, all for tomorrow's final presentation. These presentations, occurring tomorrow, is a demonstration of how much they have learned through out the week. Each team will be presenting their aspect of the mission to Mars. The teams hurried around, 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.

This idea was established stronger today when after breakfast,  Pat Pyke, director of Boise State's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Station and Kristine Barney, BSU student success coordinator, shook up the focus on the present and project with a presentation about choosing and preparing for college. 
“You've made it to ISAS”, one said, “now what's next?” However, with the best-of-the-best students that attended ISAS, the basics didn't need to be covered. They all nodded when standardized tests and grade point average were mentioned. After all, many conversations between students this week have focused on their college plans. Regardless, there was still more than enough information that could be garnered from the discussion.
Being some of the few students that seem to readily admit to loving math and science so passionately that they would give up a week of their summer to come enjoy it, not to mention take an extra class their previous semester in high school, along with various other summer work, it was helpful to have a college discussion for once, primarily focused on entering a STEM career.
“How do you prepare for a future that hasn't even been invented yet?'' Pat ask the students. “What things didn't exist when you were kids?” They listed iPhones, lasers, and touch screens, amongst others. “Now imagine what's still going to happen your lifetime”. It was one of many affirmations the students have received this week that did declare to them that they can do anything: from working at NASA Ames, to being a Micron chemist, and even beyond.

This morning, as well, the students were able to see 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”. The Microgravity Team is held in high prestige at Boise State. Acclaimed Idaho astronaut Barbra Morgan said about them late last year, “Our students continue to shine for Boise State as this program helps the university evolve as a metropolitan research university of distinction.” This presentation helped lead into a conversation about their upcoming senior year and nearing college experiences.
The final activity before lunch, was a video conference with BSU graduate, Boise native, and NASA electric engineer, Dan Isla. Isla has been working as an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab ever since graduating Boise State in 2009. Students sat in awe watching the video NASA put out a few weeks ago entitled Seven Minutes of Terror, showing the Mars rover mission he is helping work on called Curiosity and the seven minutes of no communication between it and NASA as Curiosity lands on Martian soil for the first time.

After chowing down on their choice of fajitas and other food, the students were able to go to elective-like classes taught by professionals in each of their respective fields. The students, prior to this week, were able to rate their preferences of classes. The first class option was robotics taught by Discovery Center Idaho Woody Sobey. There was chemistry by Doctor Henry Charlier. The Biology of Reduced Gravit by Doctor Cheryl Jorcyk was taught in the science building. The biomechanics of human joints was taught by Dr. Michelle Sabick and Paleontology was taught by Doctor Sam Matson and Doctor Karen Viskupic. As for the activities performed, in paleontology students learned how to tell the speed of dinosaurs by the footprints they left. They even learned about mass spectrometers, and in robotics, students assembled and programed robots that could identify colors and avoid running into walls.

Everyone then headed to dinner, followed by even more work on their projects.

The night ended with doing a dress rehearsal for tomorrow's presentations. After six days of back-to-back activities, the students all fell asleep quickly.

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 Twitterat 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.

--Jaime Guevara, Heidi Hughes--

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