Category Archives: NASA

Scientists Test Mars Spacesuit By Climbing a Glacier in Iceland | Space

Explorers tested Mars tech on Earth.

Source: Scientists Test Mars Spacesuit By Climbing a Glacier in Iceland | Space

The year begins!! 2019

Happy New Year! Another year done and now we head into the last leg of the school year. A lot will be happening in the next couple of the months. After thinking about all that is going on, I think I’ll be just a bit busy.

First, we are rolling out our Mars Rover this month. Hopefully we will name it this month, then we will bring it to NC Museum of Natural Science for Astronomy Weekend. It’s going to be a great weekend for all, the Rover Team and Robotics Team will be running the exhibit. A combination of robots and Mars map will make our exhibit one to remember. (By the way Astronomy Weekend is January 26th and 27th at the NC Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh).

Next our Robotics team is going be competing in their first Qualifier, so the next couple of weeks will be hectic with getting the Robot ready. By the way the challenge is called Rover Rukus and fits in well with our Rover. Check out the challenge at the First Tech website.

And of course, there is the daily classes to prepare for. I think I sometimes make more work for myself. I’ve discussed this with my colleagues. Instead of going with the lesson I always must change it. But my classes aren’t the same every year. And I’m always looking to improve to the lessons. Isn’t that what teaching being about also?

But of course, I also have to get involved in other things, like the Blogging Challenge sent out by A.J. Juliani, I tried to do this once before it started out great then went downhill. So, I’m trying it again. With all that’s going on I figure this year I can do this! Anyway, one of the benefits is that I get to read some great blogs by people.  And one of them is my colleagues who started blogging for the new year. Check out her blog. She’s a great Physics teacher and has some awesome things happening in class.

By the way if you are interested in naming the Rover, check out twitter @rippie77 with the Hastag #GibbonsMarsRover. And so the year begins!

Rover Build


So our build started about two months ago. Right now we work 2 days a week with maybe a couple hours on saturday. Like I said before 3 students are leading the charge on this project. But the help various Robotics mentors have been giving has been amazing too. So this entry will talk about the parts and mechanical assembly. Next blog entry will talk about the wiring issues, which I have to say have been challenging but one young man has done an awesome job with it. (Meihir you rock!)

To find all the parts you need for this Rover Project you need to go to the GitHub file area. There you’ll find parts list for different retailers. If you are lucky like our team, our head Robotics Coach/Mentor put a whole list together. He not only put the parts in order, but he also made up a shopping list, where to go and how much each part would cost. If you would like to contact me about that list please feel free, I can see if he will give me permission to share it.

Once we established that we had all the parts, we then had manufacture some of the parts. We are very lucky to have milling machine that was donated to us for cutting various parts. We used this to cut our side plates and base plates. It worked great!  Any type of Lexan parts that we needed we used a Shopbot to cut. Our Lead Coach has a Shopbot he has allowed the school to borrow.

After working on the body parts, we started the wheels. Since the Hubs of the wheels did not have holes we had to cut them. Caution here after drilling the holes we found some of them didn’t line up correctly. Not a surprise, so we only used the holes that matched up (  ). Drill press would be a big help here. Lucky enough there were at least three holes in each wheel that worked. Also make sure the kids or Adults are putting the clamps on correctly. We had some put the screws in wrong way on the clamps hubs and put the clamps hubs on incorrectly. Not a big deal since we caught it, but might have caused a problem down the road.

Once we got the wheels on we started to work on Rocker-Bogie section. This is the section that holds the wheels to the body. When building the Rocker-Bogie be careful with the instructions they are bit confusing. According to our lead builders they need to be improved/clarified on how plates and bars are fitted together. Directions weren’t specific on whether each side is mirrored or the same. Also, you need to cut one of the aluminum channels, we used a milling machine, but obviously not everyone has this type of equipment. This is where a machine shop would be a big help. If you have one near you I would suggest you create a partnership with them, so they can help you.

Rocker Bogie Title

Our next section to work on was the Differential Pivot together. This was the part of the Rover that helps keep it from tipping over. It’s a big part of the suspension system. This is simplified, there is a lot more to it, great Physics lesson here. When putting together this part there was a section that we had to change just a bit, make sure you add more washers in between the aluminum bars and turnbuckle. We found it a bit unstable and adding the extra washers made a difference.

Once you start to build the Rover you come to find out there are small changes you can make to help make it work better. That’s what this blog post is about. These are the mechanical changes we made and tried to improve the build.  There are other minor changes we made, but I only concentrated on the most important ones. One final note, the build I think was easy, it’s the wiring and programing that will take longer. If you are thinking of doing this project contact me and I can share more information about the build.


GOES-R Mission

Source: GOES-R Mission

This new mission could be not only a great weather and climate tool. But also a great educational tool.

An end to a great project

Well as the school year ends so did our Mars Imaging Research Project. As you can see by the last student entry on our blog, we had a couple of surprises that we found during our research. Students were excited when we discovered a couple changes in their research sites. We might not have discovered RSL’s but we found some interesting changes on the surface of Mars.  During the presentation Dr. Meyer’s pointed out some interesting features in the students research areas. Overall I think the students did pretty good and the presentation went well.  Hopefully our work will be posted on the MSIP site.

Their last assignment for the project included a reflection on their research and what they learned from the research.  A summary of the assignment appears below:

Write a 2 page reflection on this project. Include the following:
1- Explain the section of the research you worked on and explain what results you found.
2- Describe what you learned from the project.
3- Would you do this project again? If so why? And did you like it?

Not very intense but I believe it was to the point and valuable to my assessment on what they learned from the project.

Students were very good in their responses. Meaning they were very descriptive and  informative about their thoughts. I was impressed by how many really enjoyed the project and would do it again.

Hereare some examples of their reflections in their own words:

I learned a lot about teamwork from this project. Every member in the group did their part, sometimes with the guidance of other group members. The continuous group meetings we had gave me something to look forward to after school because the topic interested me. Once I finally understand how to work the websites we were working with, understood the information, and got going with my research, it became a very enjoyable task for me.

The Mars imaging research project has affected and changed me in so many ways. I’m a lot more open minded and ready to try anything new. I learned so many things that I never knew even existed. I’ve never had an interest in science at all, but this project sparked a new love and appreciation in science for me. The things I loved the most about the Mars Imaging Research was the enthusiasm and support from fellow imagers, the amazing experiences, and finding my new interest in science.


I am really happy with the research and work the students put into the project. Of course our lead student Alex is the one to set us on this path. His enthusiasm and love for the topic was a motivator. We were all grateful to him for his guidance and help in this project.

Alex was a great team leader he always kept us on task and his knowledge of Mars definitely helped us with what we were looking at.

Not to mention, Alex was very informative. The information he provided us with to get started, and how he guided us through the whole project was exceptional. I don’t think our group could have done it without him…


If I was to change anything I would use this in class and put aside some time each week to complete the research. If you plan ahead you can probably complete the project in less than a month.  At the website the MSIP advisors give you a schedule you can follow depending on the type of research you are completing with your students.  Mars Imaging Project is perfect example of STEM in the classroom. But more importantly I think it shows students how research is not a perfect world, everything can change in an instant especially when dealing with a dynamic planet like Mars.  As one student said “the unexpected is what science is all about”.

A year of Guest Speakers

This year we had the opportunity to have Skype sessions with aerospace engineers and scientists from the space exploration field. The opportunity opened up when we started our space explorers club. The young man ( Alex Longo) who helped start the club, asked members of the science community if they would Skype with us. Well low and behold they were more than willing to help out.

We had a total of 5 guest speakers this year. Matthew Golombek was our first speaker. His discussion centered around Mars and the next landing site. He explained the criteria behind deciding on a landing site for 2020.  Dr. Golombek was gracious enough to answer questions at the end. His talk was very interesting and students gained a better understanding about the future missions to Mars. Our next speaker was a bit different, he was associated with the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Dr. John Grant works with the Planetary Science Institute and agreed to talk to students. Students were really interested in his job and had many questions about what he did at the museum. Dr. Grant really did an awesome job explaining how he became part of the Mars landing site project. It was especially interesting because Dr. Grant was a geologists, not an engineer. After speaking with Dr. Grant we then spoke to Dr. Jim Rice.  He introduced himself by talking about how he came to love space exploration and decided to go into space exploration field. His talk centered around his work with Spirit and Opportunity. Again a geologist and not an engineer. But the highlight of his talk was the discussion at the end about NASA’s Budget. I knew the budget to NASA had been cut but I didn’t know how by how much. His comparison which is below was amazing.  Thanks to Dr. Rice for giving me permission to post these.






After Dr. Rice we spoke with Dr. Steven Levin from GAVRT. I had meet Dr. Levin a few years back when I attended the Teacher Workshop at GAVRT. I had been sent to the workshop when I was picked for the NASA Explorers PD. Dr. Levin works with the JUNO mission that is on its way to Jupiter. It will be there in July. His presentation was about what they are looking for when they arrive at Jupiter and mission itself.  Our last speaker was from Space X. Convenient since it occurred at the same time  they landed the rocket back on Earth.  Paul Wooster is a Spacecraft GNC Manager at Space Exploration Technologies. His talk centered around going to Mars and what were the future plans of SpaceX.  We had a ton of people at this one. Everyone was interested in knowing what is was like to work for SpaceX . Students asked a ton of questions at the end.

It was an awesome year for speakers and we hope to continue this next year. A couple of things about speakers, you need to be flexible because of their schedules. We did most of our talks after school. Also make sure you can use your internet connection with Skype sometimes school networks will  block Skype. All the talks were well worth it and the most positive experience ever for our students. By showing them the different STEM careers available, maybe they will want to choose one of these career paths.  That is the goal and purpose of our club and having these speakers.

Why Return to the Columbia Hills? | The Planetary Society

This is an awesome blog entry written by one of students at Cardinal Gibbons High School. Alex’s passion for Space Exploration is amazing. Due to Alex’s passion we have formed a Space Exploration Club at school. The club recently Skyped with Dr. Ming. It was a great opportunity for our students.

Real Martian Explorers…just what does it take?” This interactive presentation will engage your students as they interact with Doug Ming, a NASA scientist within NASA Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (NASA ARES) at the NASA Johnson Space Center. Doug will talk about the exploration of Mars, the Martian Movie, and what it might take to enable humans to live and work on Mars as real Martian explorers.

Where should NASA’s next Mars rover, the Mars 2020 sample caching mission, land? One site under consideration is Spirit’s old stomping ground, the Columbia Hills.

Source: Why Return to the Columbia Hills? | The Planetary Society

Gecko Feet Teach NASA How To Stick To Space Objects | Video

Gecko Feet Teach NASA How To Stick To Space Objects | Video. This is really a great example of using nature to help us develop technology.

Special 3-D Delivery From Space to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center | NASA

Special 3-D Delivery From Space to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center | NASA. Thisreally a step in a whole new direction in space travel. Think about, parts can be made on the way to other destinations. Definitely something new!

Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) : Notes from the Field : Blogs

Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) : Notes from the Field : Blogs. This would be a good start to introduction to satellites. Also the SMAP helps with weather forecasting, and its data could possibly be used in meteorology unit. I’m doing that section next. How the SMAP would be a great example for electromagnetic spectrum and how the satellite uses radiation on the EM to gather its information. Especially interesting is NASA started the “Early Adopters” program. This allows more collaboration between various interested companies. Overall this new satellite could be a great opportunity for a education.