The Summer of Innovation - NASA Supports Learning When School is Out
From first steps to final mission preparations for flight, including seeing aircraft fly overhead, about 270 middle school students, teachers and chaperones learned how a NASA research project takes flight by being a part of one.
During a day at the center on Aug. 27, the students learned about aeronautical concepts like sonic booms, those thunderous noises that happen when an aircraft penetrates the sound barrier. They learned about it when they were asked to scream into a microphone held by sonic boom researcher Ed Haering shortly after arriving at Dryden, for comparison to a sonic boom generated by aircraft later in the day.
Students also saw the flight cards used to organize a research mission and attended the crew briefing prior to the flight that's held to make sure everyone knows what is going to happen and what the goals are. Students also saw the flight suits pilots wear during a mission, watched an aircraft take off on a big screen, talked to aircrews in flight and saw the aircraft fly by the hangar and then land.
The event was at a Dryden wrap-up for NASA's Summer of Innovation. NASA's Summer of Innovation supported President Barack Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign for excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education. Dryden has supported the NASA initiative by supporting STEM programs throughout Southern California and Arizona and with participation from Nevada.
The Summer of Innovation concept for the next two years is expected to continue with a NASA presence in existing after-school and summer learning programs.
"This is a new endeavor for NASA to recognize great work by a variety of institutions, schools and universities and it is meant to enhance existing summer programs to include NASA messages about STEM," said Russ Billings, K-12 program manager and coordinator for Dryden's Summer of Innovation efforts.
The Summer of Innovation program reached thousands of middle school teachers and students across the nation and was designed to encourage and inspire students in math and science-based education programs. NASA's goal is to increase the number of future scientists, mathematicians and engineers, with an emphasis on broadening participation by low-income, minority students. NASA efforts this summer were intended to support a number of programs aimed at boosting learning, particularly for underrepresented students across the nation.
The event at Dryden introduced students to the center's work aimed at suppressing or reducing the intensity of sonic booms. Students from as far away as Las Vegas were part of the interactive demonstrations and briefings, capped with a pair of actual sonic booms - one normal and one greatly reduced in intensity - created by a NASA F/A-18 flying at supersonic speed high over Edwards Air Force Base.
Although startling, the "boom-boom" created by the sudden increase and decrease of air pressure trailing from an aircraft flying at supersonic speeds is generally harmless. However, the annoyance factor has led governmental agencies to ban supersonic flight over land, except in restricted military testing airspace. Dryden's research is exploring various means of reducing the perceived impact of sonic booms, including reshaping of aircraft structures and changes in flight profiles.
By Jay Levine