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February 8, 2006

Dryden Flight Research Center
P.O. Box 273
Edwards, California 93523
Phone 661/276-3449
FAX 661/276-3566

Beth Hagenauer
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
Phone: 661/276-7960

Local Teachers Fly Experiment On NASA's 'Weightless Wonder'

Two science teachers from Gifford C. Cole Middle School in east Lancaster are taking their experiments out of the classroom and into NASA's "Weightless Wonder," a flying microgravity laboratory.

As part of their participation in the NASA Explorer Schools Program, Cole science teachers Dorothy Smith and Margo Deal will travel to NASA's aircraft facility at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center, Houston, the week of Feb. 13. The teachers and their experiments will have a unique experience outside the bounds of gravity aboard the modified C-9 aircraft. The C-9, similar to the DC-9 airliner, produces 25 seconds of weightlessness by flying in a roller-coaster-like path of steep climbs and free falls.

NASA aerospace engineer Bob Curry and NASA Explorer School coordinator Linda Tomczuk will also participate in the flight experiment. Curry is acting director of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., and served as NASA mentor to the Cole teachers.

Cole Middle School's experiment will explore heat transfer in reduced gravity. This experiment hopes to determine if the rate of heat transfer though a variety of solid and liquid materials will change in microgravity as compared with the Earth's gravity.

Using the data gathered on the flight, teachers and students will submit a final report to NASA, which could aid the agency in realizing its Vision for Space Exploration. The report will discuss the experiment's effectiveness, scientific findings and conclusions. When Cole Middle School was selected as a NASA Explorer School in 2003, it began a three-year partnership with NASA, using the agency's unique missions and resources to help address mathematics and science needs.

"By working with teachers to develop a microgravity experiment to fly on the aircraft, the investigations help students see an application of science and mathematics concepts," said NASA Explorer School Program Manager Peg Steffen. "Students work closely with NASA engineers and scientist mentors on the experiments, giving the students a first-hand look at possible careers."

The teacher-investigators who are flying the experiments on the space center's C-9 aircraft will also have the opportunity to communicate with their students at Cole Middle School through videoconferencing via NASA's Digital Learning Network. After the teams return to Lancaster, they will share the results of their science experiment with students through outreach activities.

Cole Middle School is located at 3126 East Ave. I, Lancaster, and is one of the schools of the Eastside Union School District.

For more information on NASA Education's Reduced Gravity Flight programs, call Debbie Nguyen of NASA Johnson Space Center at (281) 483-5111, or visit the Web at: http://education.nasa.gov.

For more information on NASA Explorer Schools on the Web, go to: http://explorerschools.nasa.gov/.


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