Friday, October 29, 2010

E. Michigan University - Day III Physics, Physics, Physics

So yesterday (Wednesday) was a fairly busy day; last blog ended talking about identifying teeth, really, really old teeth and the morning class I taught with Sarah. We also had to teach a second class that night! Yeah, college is not like grade school, you definitely aren’t home by 5:00pm. This class ran from 6:00pm to 8:00pm and then we had a physics group meeting afterwards. This whole concept of working late makes me glad I’m a rubber chicken and not a real student! 
This class also had presentations to give too, and for this round of presentations, the students said to feel free to act like the age group that the presentation experiments were geared towards; come on who doesn’t want to act like a K-6th grader again at times! First up was a “fog in a jar” presentation really similar to “cloud in a jar” but on a larger scale. Again, there were matches involved so the “young-ins” had to be hands off for this but it was still a very neat demonstration and got lots of chatting among the class of how it could be modified for older chicken...  I mean children! We also had a “Tornado in a Jar” presentation; did you know with clear liquid soap, vinegar, and water you could create such a stir in a jar! Granted you do have to swish the water in the jar around… it’s a good arm workout and science in one! 
We also touched on how the Earth’s rotation is the cause for day and night and did a really cool demonstration of this in the dark. Lucky me, I’m not a chicken who is afraid of the dark. We also talked about the Sun in this presentation too! You know me, always happy to talk about the sun. Then we moved on to the seasons and discussed the different between weather and climate. This activity allowed us to color again, I always enjoy coloring; we also learned about the major climate regions of the Earth. 
Lastly, we had presentations about the rock cycle and weathering and erosion again, which for a chicken; I’m getting really good at identifying rocks! After all we did that earlier in the day as well! For this activity, we got to see samples of actual sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock and try to identify them ourselves! This activity was more so for the 4-5th grade levels so we had to behave somewhat… no more acting like second graders for this one, we were big kids now! 
We finally got home around 9:20pm where I promptly crashed because of too many late nights in a row! Then as you know, silly Sarah, who DID NOT go to bed early slept in and we were late for class today as a result. But that’s ok because she was up talking about the NASA Tweetup for STS-133 which I’m rather excited to attend myself; but no matter how much I squawked she wouldn’t wake up! 
Today was full of actually getting work done so sadly for a chicken it wasn’t that much fun but I still got to run amuck somewhat. We also did some walking around campus, for meetings and to get food, you know the usual. We also were a bit too excited to do anything more than squeal on Twitter and Facebook with excitement about the upcoming Florida trip, which I’m sure Sarah’s professor didn’t find to amusing. I for one am not in trouble, I’m a rubber chicken after all, albeit a VIP, I’m not really the student; poor Sarah when she returns back to campus. HA! I’m free!
We then had to sit in on physics class again, where we got our take home quizzes back and we didn’t do too shabby. We got an 88%, not the greatest but still, for a chicken, that’s darn good! I don’t know what Sarah got but at least I got a decent grade. After physics, we got to go to the Astronomy Club meeting at EMU where everyone was thrilled to see me. I had a nice introduction and gave out some SDO goodies to those that wanted them and overall gave everyone a good smile as they heard about my travels. Then after my introduction came the real fun part. We had a speaker about “The Martian atmosphere through the eyes of a computer” in which the presenter Dr. P (sorry, Sarah didn’t catch the spelling of his name) discussed his research regarding computer simulations of the atmosphere on Mars. It was really interesting; we learned about some upcoming missions like MSL and MAVEN, as well as how the Sun (YAY! Sun got double mentions today) affects the atmosphere of Mars. 
After such a busy day, a girl is happy to be back home and resting, at least until my next adventure which starts tomorrow; I’ll be flying to Florida for the NASATweetup and to see STS-133 launch. Hopefully I will also get to meet R2A, Astrorobonaut’s twin at the Press Site since he will be there! We did have some last minute packing to do, which required Sarah to pull stuff out of her closet, one of which was her hockey bag. We all know what a big hockey fan I am so I thought I’d try some of it on for size; I quickly learned they need to make VIP rubber chicken sized hockey gear… it was way too big! 
Now that I’m packed and my story is written, well at least for my time at Eastern Michigan University as a graduate student, I think it’s time for this girl to get some beauty rest. I will say though, all this Earth Science stuff was pretty cool, and since you can’t major in Astronaut, I may just pick a major focusing on Earth & Planetary Sciences so I can learn more about our lovely planet we call home and how it relates to other planets!

Helping with fog in a jar. 

Me during day and night demonstration. 

Helping teaching about climate. 

Back in the role of a student, listening intently about rocks! 

Walking to get lunch. Please no chicken crossing the road jokes...! 

I am not in TX anymore. I need a coat. Note the changing trees, yea it means winter is coming to the north. 

Enjoying the view Astro_Box as he flew  in a T-38 over Discovery waiting on the pad. 

Getting ready for Physics! 

Enjoying the Astronomy Club Talk. 

After the talk I felt I needed a closer look at Mars so, we went to see the model. 

Since this is the Detroit Red Wings Hockey land (hey, I am a San Jose Sharks chick), I had to try a
some hockey gear on. As expected - I need VIP size. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

E. Michigan University - Day II; Weather in a Bottle

One question that I truly enjoyed most today was "How does a plant grow?"
Basically the plant takes mineral elements and water from the soil, carbon dioxide from the air, and energy from the sun and then builds extremely complicated products, which it uses for plant food, which in turn makes the plant grow. If the soil is missing one of the these catalysts then it will not function and the plant won't grow.  

As you can see the soil plays a very important part in this - but as important is the Sun. Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Professor Scherrer, the PI of the HMI instrument on Little SDO. Back in the 1970s he said "The Sun is the only Star we know to grow vegetables!".

Understanding how plants grow, the impact soil and weather have, is an important lesson. One that we sometimes take for granted. For space travel it is even more important - unless you bring it with you on board, there is no soil in space. Maybe someday we will discover an Earth-like planet. Until then...

So after putting on a student hat for a day, I was ready to don the Graduate Student Instructor hat again for a day of presentations by our students in the Earth Science for Elementary Teachers class. The presentations were on Earth Science lessons the students thought would be fun for kids to learn, and a possible activity they themselves would use in their classroom some day. The presentations were to be 5-10 minutes in length but because this is a small lab, that rule, well, we could ignore it slightly. 

Trish teaching me about Randy the Rain Drop
First we learned about what it takes for plants to grow here on Earth and in this experiment it was demonstrated what happens when a plant grows without light, without soil, and without water! What was really neat, I thought was that the plant that grew in the closet away from the sunlight was white! It wasn’t green like the control (which is needed in every experiment!). 

Moving away from plants and what it takes for them to grow, we focused on one important aspect of growing plants and that was the water cycle! We were read a book about Randy the Rain Drop and discussed the various aspect of the water cycle that occurs during the story. From the water cycle we then moved on to “how to make a cloud in a bottle!” which was really neat. Though during the experiment we did have to use matches, which you young chicks out there shouldn’t play with! 

We then moved from up in the air to the crust and below and learned about the various layers of the earth. During this lesson, a student shared with us how a simple thing, such as an apple, can be used to model the layers of the Earth! The skin is your crust, the fleshy part your mantle, the tough part around the seeds in the outer core, and the seeds themselves are the inner core. Though, I was tempted to snack on the apple, even though snacking on experiments is frowned upon. Speaking of layers, we then had a lesson about the 4 major spheres of the Earth; Biosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere, and Geosphere. With this activity we got to color, it was nice to be able to color again for an assignment; you don’t get to do that often in college!

To round out the day we jumped back to learning how to make our own model of the water cycle. We used a large bowl, a cup inside the bowl, water, plastic wrap, and a rubber band for this; that was all! You then just leave the bowl out in the sun light, like in a window or on a table that gets sunlight and observe what happens over a few days time! Lastly, we went a little in depth and learned about weathering and erosion, these were demonstrated to us using various items found in the home. Water poured over sugar for mechanical and chemical weathering, applying a little wind to a pile of sugar as erosion, and some hydrochloric acid and a limestone rock. 

Once my time teaching was up it was time to sit in on office hours (these sure are boring for a rubber chicken – luckily I was able to be kept occupied by watching NASAtv) where students came to get help with identifying rocks and I helped grade papers! I hope they can understand my chicken scratch. I also had the famous college student food staple of pizza for lunch (I know, when I go back to JSC they’re going to have to put me on the treadmill for double time!).

Also, a student brought in some real fossilized teeth and bone for faculty and members of the Geoclub to identify; I got to help with that too! I also tried out a Halloween costume, chicken shark, or chicken vampire… it didn’t work out, my beak was only big enough to hold one tooth! These were some big teeth, not any fish I would want to run into! 

I also had time to check my Facebook and Twitter, which is always fun; reading about the excitement of the NASATweetup is just making me more excited!!! 

Helping out another GA pick his classes. Greg needed my chicken wisdom. 
Kyle showing me his water cycle model - and I am displaying my support for Sparty - Go Green! 
Class, I am Miss Camilla. I am teaching the different spheres of the earth.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eastern Michigan University - I am a Student again!

Shortly before lunch I arrived at Eastern Michigan University where my friend Sarah is a student. We grabbed a quick lunch of pizza (you know, the staple diet of a college student!). We then did some wandering around the building and visited Corrie and Lisa and the other GA's in the graduate office and GIS lab. They are all very nice and it was great to meet them! 

Then it was time to teach at 12:30, today's lab was groundwater! Here is what Sarah told me after the class: "Let me tell you, when you walk into a room with a dressed up rubber chicken, man do you get people's attention!"
So class began with a quick introduction of me, my story and my job of educational outreach of STEM programs and the benefit of science education! We also talked about my recent travels; Zero-G flight, Astronaut training, Fleet Week, and my trip to Africa. The students were amazed at how far this yours truly has traveled!

Then we got into the lab itself and discussed groundwater and it's importance! (Groundwater ranks among the most vitally important of all earth materials. In many parts of the world it forms the ONLY source of water for consumption and irrigation. - notes from the lab manual by Dr. LoDuca). We covered key terms/concepts such as aquifer (Can you tell me what an aquifer is?), 3 types of aquifers (can you name them?), recharge and discharge areas, aquiclude (What materials would make a good aquiclude, aquitard (what's the difference between aquitard and aquiclude), and porosity vs. permeability (What material has high porosity but very low permeability and makes a great barrier?)

Then we showed the class a groundwater model, so they could see how the groundwater system works on a small scale and also the affect of pollutants on the groundwater system. Remember groundwater is constantly moving!

Overall it was great to see even "Big Kids" be so excited about me! 

My truck is arriving! 
What a Welcome by Ms. Corie

I had a great visit with Lisa D. Thank you! 

Posing with the Groundwater model! 

I am overseeing the lab group and helping them with their porosity vs. permeability experiment in the lab.

Me and some of the ESCC 110 students. Clearly we need to work on the photographic skills...

Mission "Raise Awareness Space Balloon" - RASB

Mission Raise Awareness Space Balloon (RASB) –

The mission patch of the RASB project is based upon the symbols of both Fuzz Aldrin and Camilla SDO's purpose.

In the foreground, a solitary balloon ascends into the dark of Space. Above the balloon is the constellation Ursa Minor (Little Bear) for Fuzz Aldrin. To the left of the balloon is the to be discovered constellation Pullus (the Latin word for Chicken) symbolizing Camilla Corona SDO.

The blue ring highlights our planet Earth. The words Scientia quod Pacis around the edges of Earth represent both Camilla and Fuzz's mission; Science Education and Peace. The color white was chosen for Scientia quod Pacis to symbolize that not even the sky is the limit. The red outer ring, the blue inside ring and the white font represent the colors of the United States of America flag and are dedicated to all our U.S. Astronauts, active, retired and the ones who have lost their lives in the name of Space Exploration.

The star on the left is for Fuzz and signifies the night time peace and our children of the future, while the dawning Sun on the right is spreading its light across Earth during day time and represents Camilla and the NASA SDO education and mission.

Similarly to NASA’s Space Shuttle mission (STS, which stands for Shuttle Transport System) the RASB choose the abbreviation BTS for Balloon Transport System. Since the upcoming launch will be RASB first, BTS-1 has been assigned. 

Information about the AstroMascot Crew:

Fuzz Aldrin joins Miles the Traveling Bear as a touring ambassador of Bears on Patrol. While Miles is raising awareness on a personal level by meeting people, Fuzz is taking a global approach, joining forces with Camilla Corona SDO to promote science education and peace for our children.

Bears on Patrol seeks to make traumatic situations bearable for children by providing free teddy bears for police officers to give to children they encounter on calls.

For more information:

Fuzz Aldrin

Bears on Patrol

Camilla Corona SDO is the EP/O (Education and Public Outreach) mission mascot for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Camilla's role is to help with informing students, teachers, parents, and anyone interested about the Sun, Space Weather and its impact on life on Earth (and Space). Camilla's dream is to visit her best friend Little SDO in Space.

Little SDO is NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and is designed to help us understand the Sun's influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously.

For more information:

Camilla Corona SDO



Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Why Me?" - Meet Sarah, one busy grad student...

This week I would like to introduce you to another good friend of mine. I am actually on my way to see her and so I thought I should introduce her right here. Sarah will host me for a few days at E. Michigan University and then join me travels to Florida to watch Discovery's STS-133 launch on November 1, 2010. Without further delay - here she is... Sarah Smith! 

When you are not enjoying Social Media, what do you do as a profession?
When not enjoying Social Media I am a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University studying for a MS in Geographical Information Systems. I'm also a graduate assistant and teach 3 labs this semester; Earth Science of Elementary Educators and Dynamic Earth System Labs. Lastly I am actively involved in the school's Astronomy Club and GeoClub when I have time! I do eventually intended to get my PhD as well, just somewhere it doesn't snow!

What has made space exploration such an interesting subject for you?
I've always been interested in space since I was young but what really hammered it home is, and this may be a sad note for some, I can remember sitting in my room watching TV on Feb 1st anticipating a shuttle landing which never came. I can remember thinking to myself all the questions of why and how and the more I researched the space shuttle and how it works, the more I got interested in space. That summer as a high school graduation present my mom and I went down to FL and I got to see KSC for my first time.

In your opinion what are the 3 most amazing achievements/results of space exploration?
In my opinion 3 of the most amazing achievements of space exploration... well you can't really pick 3 but since this is supposed to be a short intro I will... - All the accomplishments of the Space Shuttle program (you have Hubble, ISS, EVAs, and not to mention, yeah the vehicle is reusable!)- The success of the Mars Rover missions because aiming for mars is no easy task, let alone keeping the rovers working for years on end.- The Apollo Program 

Is there a current mission (or missions) you follow regularly? If so, what mission(s)?
Besides the HSF missions, when I have down time I like to follow the Landsat program, which will be launching a new satellite, LDCM, in the end of 2012! As well as the various Mars Rovers and the upcoming MSL, I got to learn about SAM (Sample Analysis on Mars) during my time at GSFC and it is really going to be a fascinating mission. I also like to keep up to date with SDO and other various missions, to be honest, not for the data but for the stunning photos that get returned!

Why are you friends of this Not-Every-Day-Run-Of-The-Mill rubber chicken?
Well to keep a long story short, Miss Camilla was in FL for the SDO launch which was just so nicely planned right after the STS-130 launch (which I was in FL for) and so I met with the SDO tweetup gang at a local Mexican restaurant in Titusville and there was Camilla. At first I was a bit weirded out because she just sat there... and stared! But then she squawked and it was friendship at first squawk; she was squawking in response to a comment that was just screaming smart alec answer. Ever since then she's been a pretty entertaining chicken! Besides, she also knows like, everyone on the planet and has traveled far more than I!

What is your advice to today's youth?
Two pieces of advice, first, sometimes when someone tells you that you won't succeed or excel at something try not to get to down about it, you'll find sometimes it's that nice flame of motivation that helps you through things, even when things get tough (they are also usually wrong on their advice too!). Lastly, don't panic (over anything, nothing is ever worth it) and as one astronaut told me "do great things" :) 

Blog: Don't have one, thought about it though...

Washington D.C. - USA Science & Engineering Festival, October 23 & 24, 2010

The mission is to re-invigorate the interest of our nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by producing and presenting the most compelling, exciting, educational and entertaining science gatherings in the United States.

We will accomplish our mission by:
  • Offering stellar, multi-faceted programs with high entertainment value and integrity of scientific content.
  • Appealing to a large, diverse audience of all ages and backgrounds, from professionals to novices, from science enthusiasts to the merely curious
  • Engaging the greatest minds in science.
  • Involving the most dynamic leaders in business, technology, government, education and culture.
  • Building a strong foundation of prestigious and impressive institutional partners resulting in increased communication between the scientific and educational communities.
  • Producing each program at the highest level of quality, applying professional media and theatrical standards of excellence and technical sophistication.
  • Spreading the message through powerful media partnerships and an effective communications strategy resulting in increased public awareness of the importance of science in their lives.
  • Sustaining the Festival’s impact through year-round programming and curriculum development and a content-rich, interactive website.
  • Creating a science festival programming template to facilitate the development of more local festivals throughout the United States.
Astronaut Leland Melvin (STS-122,  STS-129)

We had a great Solar booth with some amazing SDO stuff. Right next to us were the great people from NASA Sun-Earth Day and together we displayed our science, showed visitors images of the Sun and explained how Space Weather has a direct impact on life on Earth (and in Space). 

Here are some of the great friends I got to see again or finally meet for the first time! 
Pamela! Last time I saw you on the West Coast. Always great to see you!
Glenn is a wonderful friend and we get to see each other often these days! 
Suzanne, and educator herself, and I finally met! 
Ah, Stacey is another good friend! 
One of my funniest friends... Heather!
Troy is truly awesome! He is with the NASA Sun-Earth Day Team
As you can see - I enjoy meeting my friends! 

World Space Week 2010 - My trip to Nigeria, Africa

Getting ready for my trip

World Space Week 2010 - The Largest Public Space Event on Earth. I celebrated it in Nigeria, Africa and visited the St. Louis Grammar School in Ekiti. High School students here had their first experience with Space Science education and research and they loved the educational material I brought from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Stanford University.

In the picture below I am with the students and teachers from St. Louis Grammar School, Ekiti. As you can see, we were learning about our Solar System. The white balloon was used as the Sun. We had other sized balls to represent the various planets and then we talked about Space Weather and the impact it has on life on Earth (and in Space). And of course we showed lots of Little SDO images of the Sun.

The hosts organized an African Space Basketball Competition with teams from different "planets" added more color to WSW 2010.

The teams were Pluto Rockets, Jupiter Sparks and Mars Warriors all trade tackled with one another. Jupiter Sparks won the tournament. All the students were excited about the program as they learned more about Space through basketball.

Reaching across the Earth is an important part of my mission. The sun and space weather impacts us all and sharing our science and findings with other countries is very important. My new friends in Nigeria are very happy to be part of our project and they are proud to learn more about our mission.