Nicholas A. Veronico (Michael Mewhinney)
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-1939 or 650/604-9000
May 19, 2005
Student Team to Conduct 'Real-World' Science at NASA
MEDIA ADVISORY: On May 23, students from the ‘Centrifu-G’s’ team, as well as Jeff Smith lead scientist and assistant chief of the Gravitational Research Branch at NASA Ames Research Center, Tom Luzod and Tianna Shaw, both lead engineers for the Hyper-G competition, will be available for interviews. On May 26, Janice Voss and Jeff Smith will be available for interviews at the conclusion of the keynote speech. Reporters interested in interviewing the students or scientists should call Nick Veronico at 650/604-1939 or 650/793-3967 to schedule an appointment.
During the week of May 23-27, a team of high school students will have a unique opportunity to conduct its own research using one of NASA’s state-of-the-art, ground-based hypergravity facilities.
The team of high school students from Troy, Mich., named the ‘Centrifu-G’s,’ won the national Hyper-G contest in January. After winning the contest, the team has conducted experiments with the help of NASA advisors in preparation for its visit to NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The team will carry out research at Ames using the 8-foot centrifuge, a machine that creates artificial gravity by spinning.
“Hypergravity is levels of gravity above one ‘G,’ or greater than Earth’s gravity,” said Jeff Smith, assistant chief of the Ames Gravitational Research Branch. “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 may change in space or on another planet. This knowledge is essential for the successful realization of the Vision for Space Exploration.
Centrifu-G’s team members will study wound healing in the flatworm Planaria (genus Dugesia), which has many physiological systems in common with human beings. 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 as to how wounds will heal in space or on the surface of Mars or the moon, where gravity is less,” Smith said.
During the students’ visit to Ames, their teacher will 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.
In addition, NASA astronaut Janice Voss, a veteran of five space flights, will be the keynote speaker at a student team reception on May 26.
“We are extremely excited to work with the NASA scientists to conduct our experiment. The best part of this entire experience is knowing that this will greatly impact the students’ futures, perhaps even inspire them to want to pursue space studies,” said Rebecca Johns, Centrifu-G team advisor and a biology teacher at Troy High School.
A team of scientists and engineers from NASA has been guiding the student team through every step of the experimental process. Experts in the field of planarian regeneration from the Forsyth Institute Planarian Research Center, Boston, Mass., also have volunteered their expertise to help conduct the experiment.
For more information about the Hyper-G competition on the Web, visit:
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet, visit:
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