Local Teachers Fly Experiments on NASA's 'Weightless Wonder'

teachers make adjustments to their experiment North Ridge Explorer School team members Charlotte Groty,Tony Knapp, and Lynn Kollar prepare their experiment for their "Weightless Wonder" flights. Image credit: NASA/JPL
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February 14, 2006

Teachers from two Southern California schools are taking their experiments out of the classroom and into NASA's "Weightless Wonder," a flying microgravity laboratory.

As participants in the NASA Explorer Schools Program, teachers from North Ridge Elementary School in Moreno Valley and Lakewood High School in Long Beach are at NASA's aircraft facility at Ellington Field, Johnson Space Center, Houston. They are preparing themselves and their experiments for a unique experience outside the bounds of gravity aboard the modified C-9 aircraft. The C-9 produces 25 seconds of weightlessness by flying in a roller-coaster-like path of steep climbs and free falls.

The North Ridge experiment is called the Bubble Project. About 25 students from the fourth and fifth grades have been working on the experiment that will help them understand the effects of microgravity on soap bubbles. For almost two years, the students have been learning about mathematics, science and engineering while testing their experiment.

"The students want to know how bubbles react in a reduced gravity environment, specifically the duration of a soap bubble, its size and direction of travel in reduced gravity," said Tony Knapp, principal at North Ridge. He said the teachers flying on the aircraft expect the new environment will produce different results compared with experiments on the ground.

The Lakewood High School project is called the Rotational Artificial Gravity experiment. It will help students determine how fast a space station would have to rotate to create artificial gravity for the station.

Both schools will test their experiments on the C-9 aircraft on February 16 and 17. Using data gathered on the flight, teachers and students will submit a final report to NASA. They will discuss their experiment's effectiveness, scientific findings and conclusions.

The teachers flying the experiments at Johnson Space Center will also have the opportunity to communicate with their students through videoconferencing via NASA's Digital Learning Network. After the teams return to school, they will share the results of their science experiments with students through outreach activities.

When North Ridge Elementary and Lakewood High School were selected as NASA Explorer Schools in 2004, they began a three-year partnership with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., using unique resources to help address mathematics and science needs.

"By working with teachers to develop a microgravity experiment to fly on the aircraft, the investigations help students see an application of science and mathematics concepts," said NASA Explorer Schools Program Manager Peg Steffen. "Students worked closely with NASA engineers and scientist mentors on the experiments, giving them a first-hand look at possible careers."

For more information on NASA's Reduced Gravity Flight education programs, call Debbie Nguyen of NASA Johnson Space Center at (281) 483-5111, or visit the Web at: http://education.nasa.gov

For more information on NASA Explorer Schools on the Internet visit: http://explorerschools.nasa.gov

For more information on JPL on the Internet, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov

Natalie Godwin (818) 354-0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

2006-021



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