Graduate Research Fellows 2009
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.
Lesley Leary, co-sponsored by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences
I have always had an interest in science, but thinking of a proposal for the NASA Space Grant made me think of when I first truly became interested in becoming a scientist. It was when I was in 7th grade and we had a hands-on stream study where we were responsible for catching and recording the different wildlife in the stream. Now that the area of science I study has become narrower I thought it would be a great idea to expose young adults to atmospheric science and make available a lot of fun activities where a passion for science could grow.
Big Weather is a program that spans over a few months and includes modules on different atmospheric science concepts including: clouds, precipitation, winds, solar energy, and extreme weather events. Each of the modules will contain a number of hands-on experiments highlighting the concepts, a NASA satellite session, weather related arts and crafts, plus building gadgets for a personal at home weather station.
Big Weather works specifically with young adults through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. These at risk youths are typically from broken homes, have behavioral or learning problems, or a general lack of respect for authority. Through this program education is provided in a fun and non-threatening environment where bonds between youths and adults can flourish and an interest in a new hobby can grow.
The first module, Big Weather: Clouds, has already commenced with great success! Big Brother Big Sister of Tucson is so excited about the event their featuring it in their monthly newsletter and advertising future Big Weather events. The Littles had a great time with the experiments and activities, especially making their own cloud in a bottle to take home. One Little who had recently finished a weather segment in school even mention, "we learned more today about clouds than we did in school last week!" Comments from the Bigs ranged from, "I never knew that," to "this was very well organized, but it didn't feel like school."
Deanna Lewis, co-sponsored by the College of Physics
Somewhere in between my current occupation as a physician assistant and status as an executive MBA student at the Eller College of Management was an invitation to work as a temporary research assistant in the department of physics: I took it. I soon found myself immersed in the world of Photovoltaics (PV). The immersion was swift, intriguing and a new world full of potential. The local enthusiasm and passion that abounds in the field of Photovoltaics produces at least one gigawatt of energy! To date I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Alex Cronin in the Department of Physics, and have been introduced to the research and innovations that are taking place at: the AZ Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE), the Biosphere 2 Institute (B2I), the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA) and the Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP). Within these collaborative partnerships I have found a niche in PV outreach and education. The program I've designed is called Science for Society.
Science for Society is a photovoltaic outreach and education field project designed to promote universal access to PV technology:
- Promoting PV research and education through intergenerational learning
- Increasing the PV workforce through professional development
- Enhancing the visibility/profile of the TEP solar test yard
- Distributing PV data acquired at the TEP Solar Test Yard
An interdisciplinary team composed of individuals from educational institutions, community organizations and industry businesses will facilitate an increase in public awareness for PV technologies, teach people how to best utilize PV technology and stimulate interest in the sciences through educational enrichment programs, fieldtrips, and experiential learning presentations/workshops. By leveraging the expertise of our strategic partnerships, the PV outreach and education field project will promote longevity and utility by creating a sustainable and replicable program through curriculum implementation, docent program development as well as establishing the TEP Solar Test yard as user-friendly site for students, homeowners, researchers, businesses and special interest groups.
The educational outreach component of this project is off to a running start. Over the summer I have been working with TUSD and the Inner Connection/Green Schools to implement a pilot PV curriculum for high school students. On August 19th, 2009, 14 students were enrolled in our Solar Technology class. The 9-week program is now offered at TUSD's Project M.O.R.E. located at 44o S. Park. The students are offered science credit for this introductory course and the district is currently in the process of assigning an official course code which will allow any of the TUSD high schools to offer the course. Our projections for year one is to offer the course in one school (done), year two-two schools, year three-four schools and year five-ten schools. We are also working on a phase-two which is a more advanced PV course geared towards installation. The goals of the curriculum implementation are to engage and educate high school aged students in the sciences utilizing a PV curriculum that prepares them to either enter the PV field directly and/or to pursue higher education in the sciences, facilitating a sustainable economy and viable workforce through renewable energy training and education. In October 2009 we will be meeting with a local solar energy company interested in underwriting the program for a three year period.
A collaborative field project with the U of A College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA), the Drachman Institute, and Imago Dei Middle School will enhance the TEP solar test yard in becoming a premier educational and solar test site. Improvement of the solar test yard site through regular maintenance, modifications and physical upgrades will allow the site to become more user friendly and facilitate an environment conducive to world-class research and learning thus increasing the utilization of the TEP Solar Test Yard via tours, workshops, demonstrations and hands-on activities. This integrative approach is designed to support the work of the U of A Department of Physics, AzRISE, B2I, and TEP. The students from CALA/Drachman Institute and the Imago Dei Middle School will embark on a joint venture to enhance the current layout and design of the TEP Solar Test yard. A "face-lift" of the TEP Solar Test yard with additional features will provide the public with an additional community solar resource center and increase the utility of the site. September 9th, 2009 was our official tour start date for solar test yard. The tours are offered weekly on Tuesdays from 9am -10am, RSVP is required.
This intergenerational field project will provide applied design concepts to enhance and increase the utility of the TEP Solar Test yard for students, researchers, homeowners and businesses. Further more it will support the initiatives of AzRISE, the U of A, TEP and B2I by increasing the status and visibility of the TEP solar test yard, elevating it to a more visible community solar resource test site with exceptional lab facilities for research and field projects, add a hands-on training facility for AzRISE's super courses, serve as regional and national training site for PV installation instruction as well as become the designated site for a PV Outreach and Education Docent Program through the U of A Department of Physics.
As coordinator for the PV Outreach and Education program my role is that of a facilitator: professional relationships between researchers, teachers, business owners and students are being developed to create and expand opportunities for professional development and intergenerational learning as well as promoting the utility and longevity of a solar technology infrastructure.
Fall 2010 Update
The past year has been an exceptional time for the growth and development of Science for Society. Having identified an additional opportunity for growth I am currently working with members of the community to develop an apprenticeship program for those interested in gaining valuable experience in PV installation as well as fostering the professional development for a qualified workforce in solar installation.
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.
Kristin Wisneski, co-sponsored by Arid Lands Research.
In 2007 I began working at the Office of Arid Lands Studies with the NASA Arizona Geospatial Extension program. Addressing the needs of nonformal education youth programs through Youth-Driven Community Asset Mapping has been the primary focus of our efforts in engaging youth with their communities and the environment. This experience has brought me into 4 different youth programs over the course of the past two years, all with different agendas and interests, to use geospatial tools for data collection, problem solving, decision-making and science-based knowledge and skills learning. For the NASA Space Grant Fellowship I am developing informal education materials to implement these skills and tools. Informal implies that the learning experience is not expert-led, but rather is voluntary and self-directed, and as it turns out over 70% of learning falls in this category. The materials will be developed and tested using participatory methods that engage the youth groups we currently work with through the Geospatial Extension program. Starting in January, the testing and refinement of the materials will continue through their use in the multi-disciplinary project called Stealth Health, led by five departments across the University of Arizona. Stealth Health aims to develop and test a novel approach integrating communication and location-based technologies with informal education for promotion of healthy behaviors aimed at decreasing the incidence of adolescent obesity. The intervention will take place in on-going after-school and weekend programs that use Youth-Driven Community Asset Mapping to empower and engage the youth. Lastly these informal education materials will be disseminated through an online portal calledMap@Syst on the eXtension.org website in hopes to impact a broader audience.