Monday, July 23, 2012

ISAS 2012 Academy 2: Day 2

Six forty-five couldn't come soon enough for the excited group of forty students. Regardless, the students came groggily from their dorms. and slouched on the lobby couches in Keiser Hall waiting to go to breakfast at the Boise River Cafe. However, after filling up on waffles, bacon and sausage, eggs and a cornucopia of other food, the students were ready to trek through campus to the Boise State Engineering Building anxious to listen to aerospace engineer, Jason Budinoff, from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Jason and the students discussed what responsibilities would be expected from the four teams. These groups (Red, Green, Blue, and White) split up the Mars mission into several separate areas: Mission Integration, Getting There, Living There, and Working There. After hearing the upcoming week's requirements, the students became more intrigued and lively, especially after Mr. Budinoff included stories about his experience with NASA.

After Jason Budinoff's presentation, each team worked to come up with their own demands and compile them into a plan of action

The guidelines for the students' mission were purposefully vague: go to the Poles (on Mars), stay for 30 days, and come back. Jason Budinoff challenged the students to debate the question, “How do we change this vague idea into a full-blown mission?” 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.

After a couple hours of planning and preparation, students were greeted by the voice of, Senior Advisor, Office of Administrator at NASA Headquarters Alan Ladwig, broadcast over speakers on a long distance conference call. Mr. Ladwig has served both under the Obama and Clinton Administrations. He is the Chief Operating Officer at Zero Gravity Corporation and a manager for Space Systems at WBB Consulting.  Within his allotted hour he was able to pull in the economic portions of NASA, the history and how government set-up impacts how NASA runs. He then delved into what NASA has been working on and the scientific and engineering aspects. 
The students then got a break for lunch followed by Superintendent if Public Education, Tom Luna. He began by talkng about the signifiance of ISAS, and how it's a new frontier program that Idaho is helping pave the way. His main topic, however, was "why programs like [ISAS]?". "We have the obligation to make sure every student in Idaho has the opportunity to reach their full potential", Superintendent Luna said. He continued his interaction with the students by talking about his life long intrigue with space. He focused on the importance of gaining knowledge. "Intellectual capacity is the currency of the twenty-first century", Luna said, "...We're all committed to making sure this program continues...Take advantage of what you are learning and use it...You are in for one heck of a ride".  Soon to follow students were able to ask questions. "With the students come first program is that going the same way it was a year ago? Has much changed?", one student asked. Another asked, "Do you know where [The State Department of Education is] looking at taking online classes in the future?" and another asked "...What was your inspiration for Students Come First". It was quite a contrast from the general personal questions last academy's students were most intrigued by.

Superintendent Tom Luna was willing to answer any questions the students had

To follow was BSU's Dean of College Engineering Amy Moll and from the College of Arts and Sciences, Kristine Barney. It was an informal opportunity for students to ask questions about college. Molls and Barney's first key topic was about finding the right school for the individual, along with finding the right major.  "Don't limit your focus to a major...think about what you want to do" Kristine Barney said.  Students were then encouraged to ask questions. Many questions were themed on what it's like to be a BSU student and how difficult it may potentially be to attend BSU and then transfer to another college, if needed."What kind of engineering programs do you have here at Boise State" one student asked. "What kind of careers can you go into with a math degree?" another students inquired. Many questions were also themed on succeeding in school. Amy Moll encouraged students to sit in the front row, be engaged and go to office hours. She encouraged students to make an impact on their professors and make sure they know the student's name, because those are the students that will be remembered and get the internships. For the students looking into the science and math field, they were told to do as much research during their late high school years and all through college that they could.  

The students were then able to watch the archived teleconference the students from the first ISAS Academy had 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.  

Then a presentation about rockets by Corey Morasch, engineer from Micron, gave the students a new perspective as to how critical the propulsion systems would have to be and how just a slight mistake can be fatal to any missionHe and the students also discussed what it took to make a rocket fly straight while watching videos of larger rockets that Corey Morasch and the club he's involved in, Tripoli Idaho, have previously shot off. The students sat on the edge of their chairs in the lecture hall as they watched the videos of the rockets shooting up from the desert and then spiraling down around 13,000 feet to the ground. One rocket video showed the launch of one of Corey and Tripoli Idaho's rockets that went higher than 100,000 feet. "If a couple of amateurs can launch rockets that go that high", Corey said, "then you guys can do anything".

He was complimented by Jennifer Christiano from Ponderosa Aero Club, who came to speak on the history of aviation, and the impact of the American spirit. Students then got another hour to work on their mission to Mars projects.

Students began to work on their robots; a break from their missions and presentations

As the evening started and the day began to end, the students were also visited by Woody Sobey from the Discovery Center of Idaho. He educated the students about what is and is not a robot and how to create an autonomous system. 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 listen to different programs and follow a rigid set of instructions
By the end of, today, day two, the students have already gelled as a functioning mission control. They are even beginning to express how well the teams have been coming together.

However, with the day winding down, the students are beginning 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 group and 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.

--Heidi Hughes, Jaime Guevara--

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