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And so it Ends…Last Day of Langley

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By the time we had reached Thursday, the group had agreed that we had obtained tons of information for the classroom. Our final day was no different. At the beginning of the day we took a tour of the Hangar on base. Any aircraft used in research were housed here.

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Once we completed this tour we continued on to the Mechanics/Modeling building. Here we were introduced to a miniature wind tunnel.

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This can be made using normal hardware materials. There are several places you can find instructions to build one, for example NASA has instructions at their site (you can find them here). There are also some YouTube videos on how to build a small wind tunnel. Definitely a great idea for class. Check out the short video showing the mechanics/model shop.

We also got a chance to see how models are made for testing and display. The materials used in creating these models were on display. Actually, we were given a couple of samples to show our classes. Since we use models throughout science and in class this is a great teaching tool. Plus the whole aerodynamics topic is another great physics topic.

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Once we finished our tour of the Mechanics/Modeling area, we then prepared to present our experience to others. The presentations were to include everyone at the NASA centers. All the teachers who were chosen this year for teacher recognition, were to present a summary of their recognition experience. A great way to share what we had learned and how we could incorporate this into our classroom.

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Yep. It was a great experience and now I have tons of information to organize and incorporate into the classroom.

At the conclusion of the experience, one thing was certain, we were given a taste of STEM careers. A ton of STEM career information to incorporate into the classroom.

Thank You NASA Explorers School!

Day Two: Wind, Lasers and all sorts of “stuff”

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On the second day of our experience we were treated to a variety of  projects. Our day started out with an introduction to IRVE. The project has progressed in stages. Currently they are working on IRVE-4. IRVE-3 was launched in 2012 and a success. The whole experiment was based on an inflatable heat shield. This would be a great introduction into the thermal dynamics and fluids. “NASA Engineering Design Challenges Thermal Protection Systems” could be an educational tool to use with this project. A great PBL, using the NASA engineering design packet and having students build different thermal shields. We were introduced to the head technicians and mechanics who are working on this project. Great insight into a collaborative effort.

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After our tour of IRVE we were taken on a tour of one of the wind tunnels. This tunnel was used in testing various materials under extreme wind conditions. The tunnel is called the “8ft High Temperature Tunnel”.   An amazing site the tunnel was getting ready to test materials for thermal shields. Walter Bruce, guided us through the process and how it worked.  Check out the photos at Flickr.

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This was a treat and a great experience. The amount of work it took for one test to be completed was amazing. Walter worked on different types of materials that could be used in heat shielding. Using these materials he was trying to develop a material that could be included in a larger inflatable landing unit. To test the material they used the 8ft Temperature Tunnel.

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The day ended with this tour and was very informative. I came away exploding with ideas how we could incorporate what we learned into class. One of the main ideas was the thermal challenge and using it as a PBL. For earth science this could be incorporated into the any part of curriculum, especially the astronomy part. This would be a great teaching tool for physics or physical science. I’m sure that the different fibers used for the thermal material could be used in chemistry class. Definitely different ideas.

Day Two ended on a great note…day three would be just as interesting.

By the way Langley is the oldest NASA Center, it’s where one of the Wright brothers started NACA later changed to NASA. Cool little fact we learned on our tour.

LASERS and NASA: NES Experience Day One

 

First day of our summer NES experience was a day of introductions. We met our lead person at Langley Research Center. Byron Meadows, an engineer turned project leader. He was awesome and discussed different components of a project he was working on for NASA. Project ACENDS (ASCENDS : Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days, and Seasons). Definitely a project worth showing the students since it pertains to CO2 emissions. I think I would use this project to introduce CO2 and greenhouse gases. Byron explained that Lasers played a major role in the project and its success.

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After discussing his project Byron then demonstrated the properties of Lasers. He explained that this demonstration was one he used when visiting schools. Using a red and green laser in a laser tank, Byron lined up the lasers so that they appeared on an index card at one end of the laser tank. His recommendation for a  tank included a “commercial tank but very thin only 1 inch wide. A fish tank will do the job with room for more experiments. Plexiglass can be cut to size and bonded for less.” Once the alignment was done, he poured a scattering fluid in the tank. This fluid is not available any more so he suggested we use milk. The result was the green laser dimmed and the red laser stayed the same. Great little demonstration for properties of scattering and absorption. (Materials might be found here: http://www.laserclassroom.com/). I’ve posted a list of materials he gave me here.

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After the introduction we then began our day, visiting an engineer who developed a way to plot wind speeds with lasers. He used a plane to carry the instruments and take measurements of winds. Two things; one his experiment is being used by the local energy company to plot winds off the Virginia cost to see where it would be profitable to put a wind farm. Second, the instrument could be used in the future to plot winds around the globe when launched into space. Yep definitely a project that is worth talking about. This would be a great starter to alternative energy sources and wind farms.

Common theme among the engineers was the emphasis they placed on working for NASA, they were doing what they wanted to do and it was not profit motivated. It was more about what they were working on.

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The next visit was with another engineer and his work on a project that would hopefully would be used in a guidance system for landing on the moon or another object. This was treat as he took us on a tour of some of the work areas where they were working on these projects. We were able to view a “Doppler” type guidance system and a 3D camera. Each was a component of system that would help land rovers and other instruments. The amazing thing I learnt from this tour, was how engineers will use “creativity” to solve some of their problems.

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As the day started to wind down we were given tons of information to take back to the class. Lasers are an important component to various projects and satellites. Also one thing that was stressed to us throughout the whole time was two words “collaboration and communication”. Byron could not stress that enough to us. He said if anything that is one thing we must teach the students. “It’s all about everyone bringing their expertise to the table to complete one goal.” Looks like those team building skills are going be a part of the beginning of the year.

In one day I learnt a great deal about problem solving, creativity, collaboration and communication. Something I know I can teach my students and use different components to help them learn about STEM. And again all of this was possible because of NES (NASA explorers school). Thank you for this opportunity.

I get very frustrated when people ask why we should spend money on NASA, well this is why. Private company’s are not picking up the slack, I don’t see Space X or others offering teacher outreach. Okay said my peace.

Look for more in Day Two Post…..