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While you weren’t watching Amazon CEO is in the space race

Jeff Bezos was once known for books, when Amazon was the world’s largest online book store. That was in 1994.

He had been recently investing in robotics, and also acquired Whole Foods. But flying under the radar has been his space company, Blue Origin, building and testing rockets. It is  what they call a rocket system, with a reusable, stage-one booster. It can take up to 100,000 pounds into space. This Apollo-sized rocket (much taller the Falcon rockets from SpaceX) is one of the few contenders in the space tourism business. Possibly a moon landing soon!

It may be a space race, but Bezos is taking it slow for now, to get it right.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in Best Practices, STEM, Technology

 

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Farewell to our quintessential Rocket Man, John Glenn

John Glenn was quite a guy. You don’t find many role models like him these days. The ones you could hold up for kids as examples of someone pushing the boundaries of science. He was the first American to orbit the Earth. To me he stood out as someone who put in the grunt work most people miss.

It’s easy to forget that before he climbed aboard ‘Friendship 7′ spacecraft on Feb 20th 1962 for his short (4 hrs, 55 mins, and 23 secs) flight, John Glenn was a fighter pilot.*

The story not often told is that before re-entry, NASA’s Mission Control told Glenn “not to jettison the retro-rocket package after firing” in order to better hold the heat shield in place. In other words, “Wait and see – you are part of the experiment!”

At the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, standing beside Friendship 7, one marvels at the courage it took to climb into this over-sized tin-can in the interest of science, not knowing what might happen when being hurled into an orbit around the Earth at 17,000 mph.

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John Glenn passed away today. He was 95.

* He flew missions in World War II, Guam, and Korea, and later served his country as a senator for 25 years. He even got back to space, briefly for a flight on the Space Shuttle.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2016 in Education, STEM

 

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Pictures from Space Day – Rockets, Satellites, Stars and Bots

This event couldn’t have been better timed. Unbeknownst to me, October 19th was a day that space pioneer, Robert Goddard had called his “Anniversary Day” — the day he thought that it just might be possible to humans to break free of gravity and travel to other planets.

Oct 19th, last Wed, turned out to be a day filled with hands-on experiences for our students who got to hear about (and see) rockets, small-space satellites, robots that could some day work in ‘teams’ or swarms on a distant planet, how to design a landing craft and parachute like the Phoenix Mars Lander, and of course sit inside a portable, inflatable planetarium

Here are some of the highlights in pictures.

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SpaceTrex Group from ASU launched a rocket and talked about Small-space satellites

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft, which lifted off on an Antares rocket Oct 17th (two days before Space Day) carrying 5,290 pounds of cargo for NASA to the International Space Station.

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The little bot that runs on Arduino, could be part of a bot swarm!

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Autonomous Collective Systems Lab let students program and run robots in a Rover obstacle avoidance challenge

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Hands-on session on planets and what ‘designing’ a new planet might involve.

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StarLab, the inflatable planetarium was here for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.

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My third year of collaborating with the Orbital ATK team

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Arizona State University’s teams

 

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StarLab team from ASU

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2016 in Education, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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SPACE DAY – Our 5th year of ‘slipping the surly bonds of earth’

In 2012, when I put together Mars Day at our school, I could tell there was a huge appetite for all things space-related. After all, the Mars rover ‘Curiosity’ had landed on the red planet a few months before.

space-dayThis year, our 5th year, we are broadening our lens, so to speak. We are calling it SPACE DAY. It is on Oct. 19th at Salt River Elementary.

I am so fortunate to have so many groups supporting me. From a NASA scientist, to Orbital ATK (formerly Orbital Science), and several groups from the School of Earth and Space at Arizona State University. Also a team who keeps bringing back StarLab, the inflatable planetarium. But wait, there’s more – a surprise guest from the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), the NASA group prepping for Mars.

There are several break-out sessions, some that will happen concurrently. We may even have a few real rocket launches outside! This year two of my colleagues will  conduct hands-on sessions that add art and design to the mix. My goal has always been to add more of the ‘A’ to the S.T.E.A.M programs.

Almost every week it’s hard to escape news of audacious new programs pertaining to vehicular designs, space colonies, cosmonauts, or discoveries about comets, asteroids, and planets –the ones we know, and those that are still to be named.

One day of the year just scratches the surface, don’t you think?

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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International Ping-Pong Space Station

Space could be fun (OK, except for dehydrated food) especially if they let you play a few games. All in the line of testing out how some materials behave in micro-gravity.

One of my colleagues lets students work on NASA projects, such as making a glider out of a shoe-box, or growing vegetables in space-like conditions. Her students are currently working on how ‘toys in space’ might perform.

So in this line of thinking, there’s Scott Kelly, who’s spending a year in space, playing ping-pong with a water droplet. If only he played against, say Sergey Volkov or Timothy Peake (UK). That would make it a more realistic international playoff.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Education, STEM

 

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So many (scientific) ways to use a GoPro!

If you saw The Martian, you couldn’t miss the GoPro cameras strategically placed where Mark Watney (Matt Damon) hast to talk to other humans who were mostly absent.

It’s not exactly a webcam, but a powerful tool to ‘journal’ an activity a whether it is extreme sport, or something technical. I’ve started off using a GoPro in robotics, and it was quite revealing how the camera sees a manoeuvre.  I am now considering a class about the camera itself.

For this there will be two three cameras at work, in fact. The first, will be a webcam because of the expert I am going to bring in, via Skype. He will demo a GoPro and ‘teach’ us how to turn a GoPro into a scientific inquiry tool.WE will be using one in class as well.

The GoPro on Mars didn’t seem contrived – or a blatant product placement —  since some have actually been used in Space before. In real space, that is, and not on a movie set. And it has also gone to on some breathtaking missions — in a balloon, for instance.

Here’s one of my favorites. What a great way to demonstrate the surface tension of water, by making the camera a part of the experiment, while acting as a journaling device!

 

 

The GoPro is obviously switched on, and what’s really smart is how the editor of this video reverses the perspective. We finally see the scientists (the astronauts) through the scientific object (a submerged camera), and the water bubble acts as another distortion lens!

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2015 in Robotics, Social Media, STEM

 

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The wisdom of Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a knack of breaking down complex ideas into simple concepts. He is the kind of teacher who makes you enjoy learning, without feeling you’re being lectured to!

Some of his statements (and tweets ) are legendary, as are his wide-sweeping statements about science, technology and life. Such as:

“To be genius is to be misunderstood, but to be misunderstood is not necessarily to be genius”In a Popular Magazine feature, August 2015)

“An informed opinion is never based on somebody else’s opinion, lest you empower others to do your thinking for you.”  @neiltyson  Aug 28, 201

But as much as I respect DeGrasse Tyson, I don’t agree with his stance on God and creation. But that’s another topic.

If you want to probe the big questions about science, or even current events seen through the eyes of a scientist, (as this one about the digital revolution) it’s worth tuning into his podcast.

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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Education, radio

 

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