Thursday, October 19, 2006

NASA Explorer School Teachers Ready to Fly

(This post is compliments of a news release written by Alysa Cummings, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction)

Students at Woodbury High School are going to circle February 9, 2007 on their calendars.

That’s the day that a team of four of their teachers are going to participate in a NASA experiment – with two of them floating weightlessly in space, conducting an experiment that they are responsible for monitoring and graphing.

Woodbury High School teachers Ari Ford, Dan Jones, Colleen Fitzgerald and Antoinette Allen do more than teach science and math during the school day. They are also team teachers for the NASA Explorer School grant, now in its third and final year. As the sole NASA Explorer School in New Jersey, these teachers regularly tap into exciting resources provided by NASA, but taking a flight on the so-called “Vomit Comet” in Houston, Texas falls into another category entirely.

According to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, “Vomit Comet is a nickname for any NASA airplane that briefly provides a nearly weightless environment in which to train astronauts, conduct research, and film motion pictures. Versions of this airplane have been operated by NASA's Reduced Gravity Research Program since 1973. (Interestingly enough, NASA prefers the nickname “Weightless Wonder” for public relations reasons).”

While the Woodbury teachers are aboard the plane, they will conduct a robotics experiment that Mr. Ford recently designed and submitted to NASA. The experiment involves three different robot simple machines – a crane, a drill and a bulldozer. The goal is to compare the concept of work under Earth's gravity to work carried out under weightless conditions. Mr. Ford’s 9th graders in Woodbury will be challenged to retrieve data produced by the experiment, graph it and draw appropriate conclusions.

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