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Graduate Fellows 2008
Mike Borden, co-sponsored by the College Of Optical Sciences
As a student with a background in space science and engineering, I have quickly learned how profound and inspiring practical experience can be. Whether the experience is through a class project, a summer internship, or Senior Design, a direct and hands on relationship with technology is a fantastic way to develop new personal and professional interests. This is my main objective through my involvement with the ASCEND! Student Satellite Program during the 2008/2009 school year. As a sponsor and mentor for a team of undergraduate engineering students at UA, my aim is to provide a balloon technology experience that is both practical as well as inspiring.
The ASCEND! program is ongoing and is both funded and supported by the Arizona Space Grant Consortium. The main objective of this program is for student teams to design, build, and fly their own weather balloon payloads. The resulting experience is one that simulates a full cycle space mission. As part of the program, the student team will be given the opportunity to launch a payload that they design and build. In the fall semester, a proof of concept payload will be launched which will pave the way for the main payload, which will be launched during the spring semester. Through these two launches, the student team will be given valuable feedback and experience that not only promotes balloon technology understanding, but also aids in a student’s ability to effectively handle a major design problem.
Significant progress has been made throughout the first semester of the ASCEND! program. A team of 6 undergraduate students has been assembled through the UA Engineering Department’s Senior Capstone Course. The team is composed of students from various engineering disciplines including mechanical, electrical, and optical science. Throughout the first semester, the team decided upon a payload objective, designed and built a payload that would meet that objective, and launched it in mid-November. The objective of this payload was to acquire a panoramic image of the Earth from an altitude of 100,000 ft. This objective was realized using 4 digital cameras appropriately spaced within the payload. The resulting images have been processed and a panoramic image is currently being assembled.
The science payload for the coming semester is the next major challenge to be addressed. The payload objective that has been determined is to design and build a balloon payload capable of solar spectroscopy. With the experience of a balloon launch under our belt, the team has high expectations for success in the coming semester.
Fall 2009 Update
With a full year of ASCEND! program experience under my belt, there have been a few significant changes to the project model here at UA. The most significant change is that the course is now being offered as a Directed Research project through the Optical Science Department. This has changed from last year's model, which offered the project through the UA Engineering Senior Capstone Course. This year's team, which consists of 3 Optical Science students and 1 Astronomy student, will be pursuing similar payload objectives for this year's project.
Theresa Foley, co-sponsored by the Department of Atmospheric Science
Partners: Sonoran Environmental Research Institute, Inc. (SERI), Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) Air Division, United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the University of Arizona’s U.S.-Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Sciences and Toxicology (Binational Center)
SERI and the PDEQ Air Division are conducting a study to monitor the levels of airborne metals in the heavily industrial Southside of metropolitan Tucson. The study is being funded by the USEPA, PDEQ and a private company. The monitoring sites are located on the roofs of six Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) properties: the SUSD Transportation Facility, Los Ninos Elementary School, Los Amigos Elementary School, Ocotillo Elementary Schools, Sunnyside High School and Chaparral Middle School.
When the laboratory finishes analyzing the sample filters, I will be doing an analysis of the metals data. My goal is to present the results of the study in a format that is culturally sensitive and relevant for south side Tucson residents. My target audience is largely Hispanic, an under-represented group in the sciences. I have created a brochure that explains details of the metals monitoring program, which my advisor Dr. Eric Betterton presented to the USEPA Region 9. I am partnering with Binational Center so that the materials I generate will be translated into Spanish and be available to community members, students and teachers.
SERI has promotoras or lay health workers who go out into the community to educate the public on the safe handling of chemicals and the dangers of lead poisoning. They will be distributing my brochure during their home and business visits. The promotoras are leaders in their community and training them is an important part of my Space Grant project. This fall, I conducted a training workshop on how PDEQ conducts the metals monitoring in the SUSD and the promotoras toured the PDEQ’s air filter weighing laboratory. Spring workshops will include Air Pollution Regulations 101, Solid Waste and Waste Water with tours to the landfill and a wastewater treatment plant.
I participate in weekly team meeting with the promotoras, who gave a lot of input into the design and content of the brochure. They are excited about the air monitoring project and eager to learn more about the project and other environmental science topics. Over the Christmas break, I began accompanying the promotoras on business visits, work that is funded by a P2 grant from the USEPA. SERI is targeting auto body shops and the goal of the business visits is to educate owners and managers on how to use fewer solvents.
I present quarterly updates on my Space Grant project to the Community Assist of Southern Arizona (CASA) advisory board, which has many civic and community leaders. CASA is a SERI program which was initiated by the USEPA Child Health Champion Campaign. The goal of CASA is to empower local citizens and communities to take steps toward protecting their children from environmental health threats.
Arin Haverland, Arid Lands Resource Sciences, co-sponsored by the
In 2005 I began serving as a graduate science teaching fellow through the University of Arizona. The experience brought me into the high school classroom and allowed me to venture outside of my graduate research studies and the university setting to share my experience, passion for the environment and my research with teachers and students throughout Tucson. I was instantly hooked! And the students and teachers were hungry for more – they wanted to learn more, and most importantly they wanted to actually DO more! Seeing the need to involve high school students and high school teachers in current community and UA research projects, I began my search for a way to not only help administrators meet the math and science standards for their classrooms, but also a way to engage the students and inspire the teachers to get involved in a new way! Over the next year and a half I worked with teachers and staff members, attended as many faculty meetings as possible and listened to their needs. I asked the students questions about what they thought about science, what they feared about math and why they felt bored at times in class. In 2007, all of the hard work paid off and I was able to create the Building Bridges Through Water Program as a recipient of the UA NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellowship Program. The Building Bridges Through Water Program has grown since then and is now officially known as the University of Arizona Junior Watershed Steward Program.
The Junior Watershed Steward Program is a cooperative high school extension education program focusing on the education and training of students and teachers across the state to serve as volunteers in the protection, restoration, monitoring, and conservation of their water and watersheds. The J.W.S. program emulates the University of Arizona Master Watershed Steward Program http://ag.arizona.edu/watershedsteward/ – a program which is geared towards adults and continuing education and operates through grants from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension office.
In addition to educational activities focused on the unique aspects of the Sonoran Desert, the Junior Watershed Steward program uses NASA based activities and educational materials to cultivate the ideas of the importance of water, on earth and in space. The JWS program also promotes environmental leadership and stewardship at the high-school level while simultaneously building a strong and sustainable foundation in water and water related issues for the teachers and students who participate in the program. Junior Watershed Stewards Learn about: Climate & Weather, Geology & Soils, Hydrology, Mapping & RS/GIS Technology, Fire in Watersheds, Ecology in Watersheds and Water Management. Junior Watershed Stewards expand their knowledge through hands-on lab exercises, specialist lectures, field trips and volunteer service projects.
In addition to the individuals who have grown up right here in Arizona, many of our students and teachers are also from countries other than the U.S. which brings this unique multicultural and multifaceted program to life both in and out of the classroom. The Junior Watershed Steward program is riding the water wave of the future in hopes that by fostering environmental stewardship, J.W.S. is not just preserving local watersheds, it is also empowering students and teachers to "make a splash" by taking action in their own communities and beyond! Through my opportunities as a UA NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellow, I have been able to reach beyond the classroom and have found that the greatest rewards are seeing the students renewed interest in science and hearing a teacher say " I had so much fun, I even forgot I was teaching"!
Chris Pagliarulo, co-sponsored by Molecular & Cellular Biology.
I am working with the Sunnyside High School Science program and FFA teacher DeeDee Amber to design, implement, and test NASA based curriculum that support the Arizona Science Standards for Freshman, Sophomores, and Juniors. We are incorporating several underutilized NASA developed educational materials including several NASA Engineering Design Challenges and a variety of project based curriculums in order to construct a semester long lunar ice prospecting challenge. All 115 of Mrs. Amber’s students are working toward designing, modeling, testing, and presenting various necessary components to support a long term mission to the moon to search for ice. The Freshman, Team Helo, will design and build greenhouse and other food production facilities needed to support 3-7 lunar base crew. The Sophomores, Team Artemis, are responsible for life support and energy, developing facilities that will both house and protect the future astronauts, as well as integrate and support the needs of the other two missions. The Juniors, Team Boomer, are the greydogs (lunar miners) charged with navigation, miner design, and raw material processing. The students will work in smaller teams to develop critical components of each mission. Because each component must work well as a system, all teams will need to work closely with other related groups and projects, creating ample pear collaboration and teaching opportunities both across classes and across grade levels. DeeDee and I feel weaving in the lunar mission storyline into the usual standard science curriculum will both improve student engagement and learning as well as permit integration of biology, math, and engineering in a more realistic way. At the end of the semester, mission teams will present their design proposals and budgets to “Congress” and a NASA Panel in the form of PowerPoint presentations and physical or CAD based models. Team members will be required to justify their design decisions, detailing how their structures or instruments support mission requirements, how their systems faired in basic testing, and how their systems and results compared to their competitors. Over the course of the semester, students will document their efforts, experiments, and activities on video. This will be edited into a variety of video podcasts to be posted on YouTube that will support (and likely entertain, if I know my kids) other students and teachers who are also interested in incorporating NASA based content into their classrooms.
Fall 2009 Update
The 2008-2009 Sunny Side NASA Mission produced several successful projects including the construction of three plant growth chambers, a bioreactor water treatment system and numerous student designed and presented science instructional modules. More importantly, all 115 students involved in the project engaged in difficult problem solving and presentation challenges related to biological and engineering science. Significant improvement in understanding and skill was reported by most students.
This year, the focus will be to encourage and support the use of these skills outside of the classroom, through competition in state and national FFA and science and engineering fairs. I will support several student team investigations related to sustainable technologies and natural resources (newly emphasized NASA priorities). Each student team will document the investigation process through both written data and note collection and video documentary production. The hope is to encourage greater participation in science competitions by all schools in the area. Currently in the Sunny Side School District, there are few resources available for students and teachers that directly support participation in science competitions. By documenting several "How-to" case studies illustrating the process and thinking behind successful student led science or engineering investigations, we hope to lower the barrier for the many other schools and teachers interested in getting involved, but that lack the time or resources necessary to start from scratch.
Alys Thomas, co-sponsored by Soil, Water & Environmental Science
In March 2003, the Governor’s Drought Task Force developed the Arizona Drought Preparedness Plan which addresses drought issues facing Arizona residents. This “force” includes a Monitoring Technical Committee (“MTC”) and Local Drought Impact Groups (“LDIGs”), whose main purpose is to provide important information to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (“ADWR”) regarding drought conditions and actual local impacts to water users. Presently, the MTC includes a national-scale Vegetation Health Index image produced monthly with Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data, from the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service; yet, little is done with this or similar ‘greenness’ products in the monitoring of monthly drought status changes, due to the difficulty in interpreting the imagery over Arizona’s diverse landscape (low desert scrub areas to mixed-conifer forests), and its potential relationship to climate variability. In Arizona, LDIGs are extremely important because individual assessments of drought status can be made on smaller scales; smaller sections of Arizona’s diverse landscape. Access to climate and drought monitoring information and data is critical for these groups to ensure the most informed decision making. Climate, satellite, and drought information is readily accessible, but training on how to use these products is not available outside of a structured academic environment.
My project will develop an educational program for county-level drought assessment groups that will quickly and efficiently allow them to make use of NDVI satellite imagery products as drought monitoring tools in county-level planning agendas. The end result of such an educational program will be that county drought planning groups be able to incorporate satellite data products in their plan development by utilizing vegetation indices in drought monitoring. The Drought Task Force planning process was designed to encourage the use of the latest scientific information, particularly climate data. In addition to its strong science focus, the process is designed to maximize stakeholder input over time.
The focus is solely Arizona LDIGs (county-level groups created voluntarily to coordinate drought public awareness, provide impact assessment information to local and state leaders, and implement and initiate local mitigation). The first phase will focus on NDVI and climate analyses; the second phase will incorporate these analyses into a tool that can be used in drought monitoring and possibly prediction; the third phase will initiate outreach and workshops for LDIGs to work hands on with the NDVI/climate tool and become comfortable with using satellite data products in their drought monitoring efforts. The expected outcome is increased knowledge and usage of NDVI data products as drought monitoring tools and information sharing from local communities to state levels. This will lead to improved reporting on local conditions and variations as well as more effective drought strategies and mitigation for smaller communities.
Allison Wilhelm, co-sponsored by the Material Science and Engineering
More than half of the 20th century’s top 20 engineering achievements that made the greatest impact on quality of life relied on the incredible properties and fabrication methods of glass. Glass research has become a significant part of many fields of study with numerous applications in fields such as space research and biotechnology. NASA specifically has used various glasses in a number of applications including REAI glass for optical components, bulk metallic glasses on the Genesis spacecraft for collection of solar wind particles, and infrared glasses for use in the Terrestrial Planet Finder Mission. However, despite its current importance and widespread application glass science is not a common topic of study addressed in middle or high school classes.
My educational outreach project addresses this challenge through the development of two classes containing hands-on experiments and associated educational materials on the use and importance of glass and optics in space research. The classes are geared toward middle school students typically underrepresented in science and engineering, and are followed by an after school observing activity. The first class gives an overview of what glass is, the properties of glasses, and a description of the various applications of glass in NASA space research. This class includes a hands-on experiment showcasing how glass is made through the creation of edible candy glass. The synthesis of conventional glasses requires extensive time and extreme temperatures. However, through the synthesis of candy glass, students can gain a safe level of “hands-on” knowledge of glass. The second class focuses on optics, and discusses the properties of different glass shapes and various optical devices used in NASA space research. This class includes a hands-on experiment to create lenses out of gelatin. Students can then learn about and calculate the focal length of their edible lenses. The final element of the project is an after school observing activity allowing students to use a Dobsonian telescope in order to show the use of these materials and principles in action. This series of lessons and experiments is designed to provide middle school students with the opportunity to learn about aspects of space research and glass science, and then apply this knowledge to hands-on experiments that will require critical thinking in a fun and edible way.