Victoria Steiner NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Phone: 650/604-0176
Jan. 10, 2005
NASA Selects Student Team to Conduct 'Real-World' Science
NASA today announced a team from Troy, Mich., is the winner of the first nationwide science contest that provides students a unique opportunity to conduct their own research using one of NASA's state-of-the-art, ground-based hypergravity facilities.
NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate officials named the "Centrifu-G's" the Hyper-G contest's main prizewinner. The team will visit NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., in May. The team will conduct research at Ames using the International Space Station Test Bed Centrifuge, a hypergravity centrifuge.
"The hypergravity competition represents one of the most innovative and exciting scientific opportunities for students," said NASA Ames Education Director Mark Leon. "Not only does this particular experiment give students real science experience, it also puts them toe to toe with some of the worlds leading researchers in this field," Leon said.
Tianna Shaw, manager of the Facility Utilization Office, and Dr. Jeff Smith, Ames' assistant chief of the Gravitational Research Branch, will help the students develop plans for the experiment. "This will be a unique opportunity for the students to experience the real-world application of science and engineering," Shaw said.
"Hypergravity is levels of gravity above one 'G,' or greater than Earth's gravity," Smith said. "NASA researchers conduct hypergravity experiments on centrifuges to understand how gravity causes changes in humans and other living organisms," he explained.
Understanding how a particular species changes in hypergravity helps scientists predict and better understand how the species will change in space or on another planet, which is essential for successful realization of the Vision for Space Exploration.
Centrifu-G's team members will study wound healing in the flatworm 'Planaria,' which has many physiological systems in common with humans. Students hypothesized that flatworms exposed to hypergravity will experience a slower rate of regeneration.
"Studying the combined processes of wound healing and gravity stress in these tiny animals may provide clues to successfully treating wounds that might be sustained by astronauts on future long-term missions to the moon or Mars," Smith said.
During the students' visit to Ames, their teachers will have an opportunity to help guide them through the scientific process, while learning about hands-on methods in biology, physics and mathematics as they relate to NASA's exploration biology research.
The competition began in September 2004. Each student team entered the contest by submitting a letter of intent, stating the idea for a scientific experiment. In December 2004, 27 high school student teams from 10 states provided proposals. NASA engineers and scientists advised students throughout the proposal development process.
In addition to the grand prize, there are three honorable mention teams: Vinegar Eel Nematodes Under Study, Columbus, Ga.; the Team Infinity Universe, Los Alamos, N.M.; and the 12 Volt Super Shockers, Boise, Idaho.
The Treasure Valley Math and Science Center, Boise, Idaho, also received special commendation to acknowledge the number and quality of experimental ideas submitted.
For more information about the Hyper-G competition on the Web, visit:
For more information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit:
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