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Volume 46 | Issue 5 | June 2004

News

 
photo:Students from Flagstaff Middle School, Ariz.

Students from Flagstaff Middle School, Ariz participated in a live earth science operational "e-mission" led by a "commander" based at Wheeling Jesuit College, Wheeling, W. Va. Via the Internet, the students and commander were in visual and audio communication during the mission. All the potential "victims" of a volcanic eruption in the exercise were safe thanks to the students' work.
NASA Photo / Tom Tschida

A day on the brink: NES e-mission fuels students' enthusiasm

By Beth Hagenauer
Dryden Public Affairs

"How many people did we lose?" Jeremy Scheneck asked the mission control commander during a simulated volcanic eruption exercise at Dryden. Scheneck's colleagues - 50 enthusiastic seventh-graders from Flagstaff Middle School, Ariz. - cheered upon hearing the response: "All lives were saved!"

Not a typical school day for the students, who visited Dryden May 4 and 5 as an education outreach of the NASA Explorer Schools (NES) program. The Earth Science mission was a live operational "e-mission" led by a "commander" based at Wheeling Jesuit College, Wheeling, W. Va. Via the Internet, the students and commander were in visual and audio communication during the execution of the mission, which involved a small Caribbean island experiencing a volcanic eruption.

During their visit to Dryden, the students also had an opportunity to fly one of NASA's aircraft simulators, which proved a challenge for some. But not for Rick Bigler, who said he was surprised that he was better at the controls of the F-15 simulator than he thought he would be. Asked if he was prepared to fly the simulator, Bigler responded that he had studied pitch, yaw and roll in school.

NASA Airborne Science mission manager Walter Klein shared his experience of flying through hurricanes on NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory. Klein told the group about the aircraft's eight flights studying hurricanes during the past 10 years.

photo:Students from Flagstaff Middle School, Ariz.

As an education outreach in support of the NASA Explorer Schools (NES) program, 50 enthusiastic seventh-graders from Flagstaff Middle School, Ariz. NASA Photo / Tom Tschida

"It sounds crazy, but it's a great ride," Klein said. Seventh-grader Jose Castruita said he had thought NASA only flew in the U.S., before Klein revealed the global nature of the work.

Lockheed life support technician Jim Sokolik offered tastes of the tube food eaten by pilots during high-altitude, long-duration missions flown in NASA's      ER-2. Student Alex Kuefler called the taste of chocolate pudding "interesting," but declined to describe it further. ER-2 pilot Dave Wright told the students that the ER-2 was a "very physical" plane to fly and that a pilot needs great upper-body strength.

The students, tired but inspired, headed back to Arizona by bus with a better grasp of NASA and the Agency's future occupational needs. From machine shops to control rooms, from historian to public affairs specialist to educator, the Flagstaff students learned that NASA has a career for each of them.

The NES initiative is aimed at encouraging schoolchildren to pursue academics that might lead to careers in technology fields such as engineering. As part of a three-year partnership between NASA's Education Enterprise and the National Science Teachers Association, fifty schools were selected from around the nation in 2003 to be Explorer Schools.

The five schools affiliated with Dryden are Black Mountain Elementary and Middle School, Golden Valley, Ariz.; Flagstaff Middle School; Kennedy Elementary School, San Diego; Edwards Air Force Base Middle School and Gifford C. Cole Middle Cole, Lancaster.