Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Supt. Luna, Congressional Leaders Celebrate Idaho's Exceptional Congressional Award Recipients

Superintendent Luna joined the Governor and members of Idaho's congressional delegation this morning in congratulating Idaho's Congressional Award Medal recipients. 68 young Idahoans were awarded Bronze, Silver, or Gold Congressional Award Medals in the ceremony, which was hosted by KTVB Boise's Doug Petcash. A moment of silence was observed in honor of the late Kathryn Benoit, who was among the Idaho youths who had earned the prestigious gold medal. Congressmen remarked on the dedication of these young people and the impact they had on their communities.

The Congressional Award Medal was created in 1979 to be given to young people ages 14 through 23 who accomplish goals in Volunteer Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration.

The Congressional Award is a voluntary, non-competitive program open to young Americans of any gender, race, academic or athletic ability, or socioeconomic background. It is an incentive and recognition from the United States Congress for any young person who wishes to excel, accepts the challenge of setting personal goals, and masters those goals through discipline and hard work.

Listed below are Idaho's recipients:


Jennifer Benton
Julia Broderick
Kelsey Bunce
Wyatt Bunce
Hannah Cross
Madison Dahlquist
Shannon Davidson
Sean Edington
Claire Goss
Courtney Haight
Joel Parker Heisey
Jaclyn Hunt
Frank Jameson
Rex Kelly
Matthew Liscinsky
Josie Lyman
Caleb Mattox
Austin Nalen
Rebecca Page
Sydney Sales
Jason Schenk
Jericho Schroeder


April Adamson
Vincent Adamson
Blake Alfson
Hayden Amaro
Tim Atwell
Joshua Benton
Cory Buckley
Nicolas Buckley
Austin Day
Silas Domy
Jonathan Etters
Esther Frederick
Michaela Gerard
Maggie Heidenreich
Olivia Heisey
Rachel Hooper
Brock Hulsey
Nellie Makings
Chase McKelvey
A. Prescott Pettiette
Steven Price
Joshua Renn
Amber Rubens
Bailey Seamens-Anderson
Thane Sweard
Lacey Teske
Lance Teske
Jessica Tweedie


Dakota Barnes
Kathryn Benoit
Steven Boomhower
Abigail Burk
Zana Davey
Nathaniel Goss
Elizabeth Harris
Jocelyn Hepton
Danielle Hooper
Maleah Huggins
John Langdon
John Langfield
Breanna Lee
Stacie Monaghan
Jeremiah Patchin
Kylee Richmond
Rachel Spencer
Ashley Stucki

Monday, August 29, 2011

Superintendent Luna Joins Senator Crapo to Support Legislation Preventing Teen Dating Violence

Today, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna joined Idaho Senator Mike Crapo in supporting federal legislation to boost education and awareness about teen dating violence in Idaho schools.

Teen dating violence is an issue in Idaho today.  In 2009, 11 percent of Idaho high school students reported being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s nearly 31,000 students across our state.

“This does not just affect these students. Violence affects all our students,” Superintendent Luna said. “Abusive behavior occurring on school campuses has a lasting impact on the overall school climate.  It interferes with students’ abilities to focus on learning. We have to make sure every student is free from intimidation and fear.”

Superintendent Luna and staff at the Idaho State Department of Education have been making progress in preventing teen dating violence over the past four years by collaborating with the Center for Healthy Teen Relationships and Start Strong Idaho to promote healthy teen relationships and reduce teen dating violence.

The Coordinated School Health Program in the State Department of Education works directly with schools to establish school health councils focused on a variety of health issues including violence to improve school climate and academic success. 

Senator Crapo has been a leader in preventing teen dating violence at the national level for many years.  Now, he is a co-sponsor of the SAFE Teen Act, which will help Idaho build on Idaho’s successes and further prevent teen dating violence. Specifically, this legislation will:
  • Authorize schools to use existing grant funding for teen dating violence prevention,
  • Highlight teen dating violence prevention as part of the comprehensive, community prevention program, Safe Schools, Healthy Students, that already funds prevention activities,
  • Support better teen dating violence data to understand the scope of the problem as well as having a means of measuring the impact of prevention programs and policies,
  • Support promising practices to further replicate, refine and test prevention models.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

State to Provide College Entrance Exams for High School Students

As part of Idaho’s efforts to create a 21st century classroom that better prepares every student for postsecondary education, all high school juniors can now take the SAT or ACCUPLACER placement test for free, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced today.

“Our goal is for every Idaho child to be college- and career-ready,” Superintendent Luna said. “For the first time, every Idaho student will have the opportunity to take a college entrance exam, paid for by the state, and to know whether they are prepared for the rigors of postsecondary education. This is an important piece of our Students Come First reform efforts to create a 21st Century Classroom and make sure Idaho students are prepared to succeed in the world that awaits them.”

The Idaho State Board of Education proposed new high school graduation requirements for the Class of 2013 to ensure more students graduated from high school prepared to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce. The Legislature approved these new requirements in 2007. Among these requirements, students must take an additional year of math and science and complete a college entrance exam before the end of their junior year. Students can take either the ACT, SAT, COMPASS, or ACCUPLACER test.
This year, lawmakers appropriated $963,500 for a statewide contract to pay for the test. After a competitive bid process, the State Department of Education selected the SAT as the best test to meet the needs of students as well as the most cost efficient.

The Department has signed a one-year contract with the College Board, the non-profit education organization that administers the SAT and the ACCUPLACER, for $920,000. The contract also includes a free SAT online preparation course for all 11th graders, optional re-testing through the ACCUPLACER Placement Test for students who do not meet the college and career benchmark on the SAT, and a web-based tool that allows students to see the link between SAT scores and college- and career-readiness skills.

“The College Board is excited to partner with the State of Idaho to give all incoming high school juniors access to the SAT. While we are only beginning our relationship with the people of this great state, the SAT has a long history of promoting college access and success,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “The exam is widely respected across the country and is accepted by every Idaho college and university, as well as the majority of colleges and universities in the U.S. This partnership will open doors for thousands of students and will help foster the culture of opportunity that so many Idahoans are striving to build.”

The State Department of Education convened a group of educational stakeholders, including representatives of local school districts and higher education, to review the bid proposals with Department staff.

Reviewers selected the SAT because it included more comprehensive tools for teachers and students, in addition to flexibility in the school day testing date. For example, students will have the opportunity to take practice tests online to familiarize themselves with the SAT format and question types. The SAT provides faster score reporting for students and access to online score reports.

In addition, students who need remediation can retest in their senior year under Idaho’s contract.

Don Coberly, Superintendent of the Boise School District, served as a reviewer. “I am excited that our high school juniors will all have access to the SAT next year, as we work to ensure that more students are prepared for post-secondary pursuits,” Coberly said. “I am especially pleased that students will have access to online tools from the College Board that will assist with preparation for the exam.”

The SAT tests reading, math, writing skills and knowledge students acquire during high school, and also shows how well students can apply their knowledge, a factor critically important for college success. States such as Maine and Delaware already have contracts with the College Board for statewide SAT testing.

Through Idaho’s contract, students will take the SAT free of charge during the school day. Students will still have the option to take another college entrance exam, but must pay for it at their own expense.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CenturyLink and DonorsChoose.org Partner To Help Students in Need

BOISE, Idaho – CenturyLink today announced their partnership with DonorsChoose.org by offering a total of $100,000 in “Double Your Impact” grants for public school classroom projects throughout its markets. Public school teachers in any CenturyLink service area in Idaho are invited to visit DonorsChoose.org and request support for classroom materials and projects.

Any project request up to $500 in materials submitted by a public school teacher located within a CenturyLink area is eligible. CenturyLink’s “Double Your Impact” grant provides half the cost of a project when the first half is raised through donors. For example, after donors contribute $250 toward a $500 project, CenturyLink will fund the remaining balance of the project. The company will contribute $100,000 total toward eligible projects throughout its 37-state service area.

“Supporting K-12 education is one of CenturyLink’s primary philanthropic focus areas,” said Jim Schmit, CenturyLink’s vice president and general manager for Idaho. “The CenturyLink and DonorsChoose.org partnership reflects our brand and vision, demonstrating our commitment to improving the lives of our customers and supporting the communities in which we work and live.”

"As a long-time advocate for ensuring Idaho's children receive the best education they can, I applaud CenturyLink for partnering with DonorsChoose.org to provide additional resources for teachers to help make that happen in our state," Idaho First Lady Lori Otter said. "This is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to request such items as books, musical instruments, art supplies and computers that will supplement their classroom teaching and enhance the learning experience for students."

Teachers should visit www.DonorsChoose.org/teachers to submit their project requests. For the best chance to receive funding, project requests should be submitted by Sept. 12, 2011.

About CenturyLink

CenturyLink is the third largest telecommunications company in the United States. The company provides broadband, voice and wireless services to consumers and businesses across the country and advanced entertainment services under the CenturyLinkTM PrismTM TV and DIRECTV brands. In addition, the company provides data, voice and managed services to business, government and wholesale customers in local, national and select international markets through its high-quality advanced fiber optic network and multiple data centers. CenturyLink also is recognized as a leader in the network services market by key technology industry analyst firms, and is a global leader in cloud infrastructure and hosted IT solutions for enterprises through Savvis, a CenturyLink company. CenturyLink’s customers range from Fortune 500 companies in some of the country’s largest cities to families living in rural America. Headquartered in Monroe, La., CenturyLink is an S&P 500 company and is included among the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations. For more information, visit www.centurylink.com.

About DonorsChoose.org

Founded in 2000, DonorsChoose.org (www.donorschoose.org) is a nonprofit website where public school teachers describe specific educational projects for their students, and donors can choose the projects they want to support. After completing a project, the donor hears back from the classroom they supported in the form of photographs and teacher thank-you letters. To date, 184,000 public and charter school teachers have used the site to secure funding for $85 million in books, art supplies, technology, and other resources that their students need to learn. Through DonorsChoose.org, individuals from all walks of life have helped 5.1 million students.

Monday, August 8, 2011

State Board to Host Public Meetings on Online Credit Requirement

A subcommittee of the Idaho State Board of Education has proposed requiring the Class of 2016 to complete two online credits before graduation. The rule would require one credit to be taken asynchronous, meaning a course in which communication exchanges take place in elapsed time and allows teachers and students to participate according to their schedule. The second credit could be taken in another online format or through a blended model. The rule also allows local districts to develop an alternate route if it is determined a student is unable to complete an online course.

The State Board will hold a series of public meetings to gather public comment on this proposed requirement throughout August. Here is the schedule of public meetings throughout the state:

Idaho Falls
August 9th, 2011, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
University Place, Center for Higher Education (CHE), Room 211
Science Center Drive, Idaho Falls, ID

August 10th, 2011, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Idaho State University, Rendezvous, Room 111
921 S. 8th Avenue, Pocatello, ID

Coeur d’Alene
August 15th, 2011, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
North Idaho College, Meyer Health Bldg, Room 102
1000 W Garden Ave, Coeur d’Alene, ID

August 16th, 2011, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
University of Idaho, Student Union Building
Borah Theater
709 S Deakin Ave, Moscow, ID

Western Treasure Valley
August 17th, 2011, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Fruitland High School
501 Iowa Ave, Fruitland, ID

August 18th, 2011, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
College of Western Idaho
5500 East Opportunity Drive, Nampa, ID

Twin Falls
August 22nd, 2011, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
College of Southern Idaho, Taylor Building, Room 277
315 Falls Ave, Twin Falls, ID

For more information on the public meetings or the draft rule, visit: http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/meetings/special_events/online_grad_credit_req.asp

ISAS 2011 Academy 2 Day 7

Today, the first ISAS summer Academy of 2011 came to a close as students, parents, mentors and honored guests attended a VIP luncheon in Boise State University’s Student Union Simplot Ballroom. All the hard work that the students had put into their projects this week was finalized a couple hours prior to the luncheon. Leaving the students with enough time to rehearse their presentations before parents, friends, and other important persons marched into the ample ballroom in Boise State's Student Union Building.

Students saying gathering before presentation

Peter Kavouras giving Opening Speech

As observers of the students throughout the week, it was amazing to watch a group of high-schoolers from across an entire state gel so quickly and design an original mission to Mars, all while experiencing countless different STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) opportunities. What these students have achieved in the past week is astounding. Idaho is truly fortunate to be one of only five states to take part in the High School Aerospace Scholars program. The state is also exceptionally lucky to have such amazing students within its borders. Idaho is very fortunate indeed to not only have such an exceptional program for its students, but also to have such bright minds that are willing to partake in such a program that will inevitably change them for the better.

ISAS stage

After the teams made small presentations in the ballroom's lobby, they started to come in with their teams, preparing themselves to give an even more in-depth presentation to the avid audience that lay before them. Although before their actual presentations, the students were preceded by Peter Kavouras, Director of ISAS, who gave the introductory speech and read a letter from governor Butch Otter that congratulated the students on their hard work and determination during their week at ISAS.

After hearing what the governor wished to say to the students, all those in attendance ate delicious pasta and chicken with all sorts of sides. The ballroom filled with the sounds of clinking silverware, conversation, and music as a commemorative video of the 2011 Academy played on a screen in the background. Once the meal was completed, each team stepped up to the stage in order to present their respective components of the mission accompanied by a Prezi presentation. The parents listened carefully and in amazement. Here in front of them were their high school children, the same children who were dropped off at Boise State University one week ago, presenting revolutionary ideas as professionals. To witness such an event, parents could not help but feel proud as their children displayed a striking maturity and air of success, uncommon in the typical high school student.

The luncheon came to a close with the presentation of diplomas and prepared speeches by a few of the students who were adamant in sharing their experiences with all those present.

Following the student's testimonies, a short video was played in which the students were congratulated by the head coordinator of the High School Aerospace Scholars program: Linda Smith. Now with ISAS 2011 Academy 2 ending this week, many of the people that have been involved with this program are glad to yet again view another batch of bright, young minds coming through this Academy with a new outlook on their academic careers and also with an even bigger network of people, all ready to help them out when needed.
This last blog concludes the coverage for Camp 2. A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS Summer Academy Facebook group and page, as well as to Twitter at ISAS_Academy. All of the staff at ISAS wish them good luck and are proud of all the work they have done.

--Andrew Schrader, Jaime Guevara, LaCinda Villanueva--

Friday, August 5, 2011

ISAS 2011 Academy 2 Day 6

The students walked back from breakfast this morning to the Boise State Engineering department in order to hear an address from the Dean of Engineering, Dr. Amy Moll. Her conversation with the students was to help prepare them for applying to colleges and what the freshman year of engineering is typically like at Boise State University. The students were encouraged to ask questions about different types of degrees & minors offered at the College of Engineering. She stressed to the students that their ideal college, should be a perfect fit for their education style, and should fit their needs. She also thoroughly described what engineering is and how it can help students in 9their future, “Engineering is trying to find solutions that improve the quality of life.” The students asked many important questions that reinforced their understanding of engineering and what they can expect in their college years.

“Engineering is trying to find solutions that improve the quality of life.”
-- Dr. Amy Moll

Immediately after the address by Dr. Amy Moll, the students organized themselves into their groups and presented the results of their projects to the entire Academy in order to finalize all of their information. The students asked questions of one another and clarified specific details. Through this exercise, the students smoothed the rough edges of their mission in order to make it as streamlined and polished as possible. When prompted, they presented constructive criticism as professionals. The students were exceptionally impressive as they compromised with one another.
Students presenting final information

After the presentation, the students split up into their groups once again to continue work on their projects. The students were able to remedy any problems they flushed out during the previous process.
With some questions answered, the students then listened to a presentation by Dr. Michelle Sabick of Boise State University. Her presentation was about the field of Biomedical Engineering and its uses in society. She discussed how many different STEM fields are combined to create this engineering department. The students were interested in the motion-capture technology and the experiments centering on athletics.
Afterwards, the students were taken on a tour of the Boise State University Engineering building and shown four different research projects. The first project dealt with a concept known as Extraterrestrial Dust Mechanics. Basically, this project studied dust motion and would be used to accurately measure the size and velocity of thousands of dust particles. This NASA funded project will possibly be used to sample Mars dust and better understand its makeup. Another project that the students were able to see was in the CMEMS Lab, where Dr. Don Plumlee gave a short presentation on his department. One of the projects he discussed with the students emphasized energy scavenging with the creation of a small unit in a backpack that would generate power due to the vibrations of the backpack as an individual walks. Dr. Jim Browning was another professor who was willing to show his laboratory to the scholars. He told the students how his research concerned small ion thrusters which can be placed on a spacecraft to more efficiently maneuver the spacecraft. The last presentation was of the Electron Microscope by Dan Osterberg and Nikki Lundy. The students were even shown images of individual atoms from the high powered microscope.

After a rushed lunch the students returned to the Bosie State Engineering buildings to work further on the rover projects, design and test landers built out of art supplies, and work on their projects. The students who had volunteered to work on the robots were finalizing their programs and preparing their robots for a Rover rumble competition. Every student was busy working. However, whenever given a free moment, the students were able to poke their heads outside and try their hand at driving a Segway. Students would run back and forth to get their work done and squeeze as much time as possible out of their Segway experience.

When the students finished their work on the lunar landers, they held a single competition which combined the two challenges of seeing which team could suspend their lander in the air longest, and which lander arrived closest to a destination. The rovers were dropped  from three stories up in the Boise State Engineering Department’s main lobby. Students counted down loudly so the teams dropping could know when the timer started. Most of the landers managed to reach the ground, while others, unfortunately, hung up on balconies. Upon completion of multiple drops, the students returned to the main lecture hall where they chose their best combination of scores.
Let the competition begin!
The robot rover competition utilized the robots which the students had put together earlier in the week.e week. The competition consisted of the robots driving within a rectangular ring, searching for colored strips of paper. The rover which found the most papers and relayed that data correctly to a computer would win the event. Students crowded around the tiny ring as they watched their creations struggle around the ring. For many of the students, it was their first time using robotics and programming equipment. Every student found it interesting and fun to put them together and put them to the test.
Robot Rover Rumble
The students also gave their team’s presentations to the entire academy in order to prepare for the VIP luncheon tomorrow afternoon. They also wanted to have a critique of their presentations so the students could fine-tune any mistakes or problems that would arise. The students gave professional presentations which did require some corrections. However, the students have learned what types of presentations are required of a professional organization. With this knowledge, students can take their experiences from this Academy back to the classroom and possibly even further.

ISAS Academy student Jamie Lunders volunteered to say a few words about how influential the program has been for her.  
 "Before I got involved in the ISAS program, I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do after high school. Now, after learning so much about engineering and science, I've decided that I want to do something in those fields. The summer academy has been a fun, educational, and exciting experience- I'm glad I got the opportunity to be involved with NASA and interact with the ISAS students and mentors."
-- Jamie Lunders
These blogs will continue to be uploaded daily, once the students have completed their final activities each night. A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS Summer Academy Facebook  page, as well as to Twitterat ISAS_Academy. The students look forward to another difficult day as they finalize their missions and presentations.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

ISAS 2011 Academy 2 Day 5

After returning from NASA Ames Research Center, the students were able to rest for a little while before continuing to visit even more STEM facilities. With a quick and early breakfast, the students piled into a coach which took them to Micron Technology for a day of exploration around a worldwide manufacturer of electronic goods. For those who do not know, Micron specializes in creating revolutionary memory units for computers and other devices. The students were taken ‘behind-the-scenes’ of Micron where all the laboratories for their chip research are located. Once there, the students were further split into smaller tour groups. One presentation, at the Central Lab, was done by David Fillmore who described to the students his job as an “electronics CSI” and the methods he employed such as using X-ray spectrometers which enabled Dave and his co-workers to scan the surfaces of the test wafers. Other exams included studying the crystals of the wafers in order to determine the composition and, in a sense, better the production method of the final products, and using a mass spectrometer to determine more properties of the silicon by its mass.

The next stop for the students was the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) in which the members working there showed the students that to get a sample ready for the TEM, it had to reduce an already micrometer thick sample down to nanometer thickness. They also learned that Micron is one of very few places, if not the only place, to have four electron microscopes working at the same time. Though what impressed the students the most was the “images” of the microchips that were being tested in the microscopes. When asked if they could have copies of the atom-sized images, the engineers responded by telling them that it would be simpler to take a black and white photo of their own denim jeans.

They were later taken to the fabrication area of Micron where Micron’s in-house made robots were seen taking pieces of DDR Ram and fitting them into their plastic casings. Corey Morasch explained to the students the importance of engineers, not just for Micron but also for many technology-based enterprises, and their contributions to society. Also, to sweeten the idea of studying engineering, Corey spoke to the students about how technicians can make $30,000 a year working for Micron or other places, but engineers can make twice that immediately after college.
As the students were led back to the entrance to the factory, they were brought into a small conference room where they listened to a presentation by Dr. Chandra Mouli about how to succeed in technology careers. One of his first statements to the students was that one needs, “to find what you love and become really good at it…really good.” Dr. Mouli stressed to the students that it is impossible to succeed in STEM without having that passion. He encouraged students to work hard, but to also be careful not to work for the sake of working. Instead, they should enjoy their work. “Don’t be a workaholic, be a workafrolic.” He showed the students many different strategies to take full advantage of their time management as well as ethics in industry. He discussed many areas where an individual can fall short of what is necessary to be in a STEM career. He showed the students that succeeding in technology is an exceptionally complicated process. Although these students are still only in high school, these concepts are valuable to learn now, so that they may shine brighter than other students their own age, and be able to succeed.

While eating a delicious lunch of fajitas at Micron, the students received a surprise visit from the Vice President of Memory System Development, Dean A. Klein. He demonstrated to the students the use of Micron technology in a quadricopter (a small toy helicopter flown by four blades), which was controlled by an iPad 2. He showed the students that Micron and other companies in similar industries are vital to everyday products. Whether it be from a laptop computer to a simple toy. 

Upon completing the visit to Micron, the students were taken to Simplot Fields in order to witness a rocket being launched. After spending a good portion of the day inside Micron, the students were visibly restored by the fresh air. Although there were some technical difficulties with launching the rocket caused it to remain grounded, the students still enjoyed having a short moment to stretch their legs.

Students crowding about the rocket

Rocket on launch pad
After the rocket attempt, the students returned to the Boise State Engineering buildings in order to continue the hard work required of them to design a realistic mission to Mars. Armed with new knowledge and resource after visiting Ames and Micron, the students were able to dive into their work with a renewed bout of confidence. During this time, a few students shared their feelings of the program so far.

Due to some technical difficulties the video will not appear on the blog, however here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v_aSjQvgZo

The students worked hard until dinner, and were happy to have a short break in the action. Before they left however, students were introduced to Astronaut Jose M. Hernandez in order to allow them to talk with him during dinner.

After the dinner, the students got to listen to a presentation by Jose M. Hernandez about his experience of being an astronaut and what he has witnessed in his years of working with NASA. He also told the students his background, and how no background could define where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do. He told the students many interesting stories about his childhood. One story was about how his father would always have him adjust the rabbit ears on the television while they were watching the Apollo moonwalks. He said how he still kids his family members that, “that’s why I became an astronaut, through osmosis.” He told the story of how he was selected to be an astronaut, and the triumphs he overcame to get to where he is today. His story was a very encouraging to students, and taught everyone to not give up on their dreams. He then showed the students a video of the entire Discovery mission which he was a member. He also gave the students a detailed narration of the mission, and explained the life of an astronaut up in space. The most memorable quote of the evening was, “It took me to go out of this world to see that we all are one.”
 “It took me to go out of this world to see that we all are one.”
 -- Astronaut Jose Hernandez

After a quick photo opportunity with the astronaut, the students relaxed for the rest of the evening by trekking to the Student Union to bowl, play billiards, and Frisbee. The students received a much deserved break after a long day of work.

These blogs will continue to be uploaded daily, once the students have completed their final activities each night. A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS Summer Academy Facebook  page, as well as to Twitterat ISAS_Academy. The students look forward to another difficult day as they finalize their missions and presentations.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ISAS 2011 Academy 2 Day 4

The students woke up early once again in order to fill their day with as much time in NASA Ames Research Center as possible. By 8:00 in the morning, the students had cleaned out all of their rooms, eaten a quick bagged breakfast provided by Navy Lodge, and began walking towards the main entrance. There were many sleepy eyes as the students passed through the guarded gates of Ames, but by the time they reached their first lecture, enough blood had pumped into their brains to keep them awake and engaged for the rest of the day.

The first lecture was located in the furthest building across Ames, causing many of the students to receive an unexpected workout. The lecture was given by a famous NASA scientist, Dr. Chris McKay, who brought actual rocks from meteorites for the students to look at and touch. His presentation was centered on his work about searching for alien life. However, this alien life has nothing to do with little green men, but instead, as he defines it, “life that is not of Earth’s tree of life…a second genesis of life.”
Lecture by Dr. Chris McKay

 What he explained to the students is that the definition of alien has changed throughout the years. True alien life is now characterized as a life form that is not related to the life found on earth; not carbon-based organisms, or any organism that can be classified on earth’s tree of life. For the most part, Dr. McKay suspects these life forms to be of a similar persuasion to bacteria or single-celled organisms on earth, but of a completely different structure never seen before. The students listened closely as he described the possible planets that may contain the dead and frozen remains of these organisms.

Different planets from presentation

 One of the most interesting arguments he stated is that Mars, because it is 1/10 the size of Earth, may have once held basic life for a short time period. However, because it was so much smaller, the planet did not have enough gravity to hold onto an atmosphere, causing it to leak into space and killing any life that may have existed.

After the lecture, students once again split up into two groups to visit another handful of interesting facilities. One of the laboratories the students visited was called the Psychophysiological Research Laboratory, headed by Dr. Patricia Cowings. The facility prepared astronauts and cosmonauts for the intense effects of liftoff and the disorientation that it causes. She also helped to train the astronauts to exercise while in space so that when they returned to Earth, the effects of living in microgravity would be minimal. She had a powerful presence in the room, which caused all the students to pay special attention to the amazing work she has done in her career.

The last place the students visited before lunch was a facility which housed the Mars Wind Tunnel. The tunnel was nothing like the size of the 80 x 120, but has still been an important component to recent Mars study. The wind tunnel would blast simulated Mars dust to recreate the many dust storms which have plagued and aided previous Mars rover missions. While looking at the Wind Tunnel, the students were given valuable advice about how one should research correctly: don’t just watch what is happening, write what is happening.

By 11:00, the students were growing hungry, but Ames luckily had exactly what they were looking for. At Ames, every Wednesday is Burrito Day at the MegaBites cafeteria, and the burritos were especially large. Neither students  nor mentors, left the building hungry.

Some students posing for a shot

The students were allowed some free time to go to any of the gift shops in the center to continue souvenir hunting. The students went about the task with gusto, and regrouped soon afterwards to listen to a presentation by Ken Bower, a scientist aboard the aerial observatory known as SOFIA. The presentation dealt with the history of telescopes, their usefulness, and how they work. It was extremely informative, and one of the most interesting presentations, especially when the speaker allowed the students to play with an infrared camera to further demonstrate a different spectrum of light.

After this presentation, the students split up into their groups to visit two more NASA facilities. The first was the Fluid Mechanics Lab, which tests different objects and models in smaller scale wind tunnels. The students were able to even feel one of the wind tunnels as the interns at the facility turned it on especially for them. It was good for the students to interact with the interns who were only a year or so older than themselves. It demonstrated to the students that it is possible to get involved if they work hard and pursue as many opportunities as possible.

Students in Fluid Mechanics Lab
The very last facility in Ames that the students were able to witness was called Future Flight Central. The center was a simulator of a control tower where the students were shown an airport in Nevada and were impressed by the realistic surroundings. The life-like snow, rain, and fog simulations were amazing. Even more realistic was a simulated voyage they witnessed from Nevada to the surface of Mars. The simulation was able to put into better perspective what conditions the students would have to prepare for once their “team” got to the surface of the red planet.

Students lounging on Mars
With the tours finished for the day, the students were allowed a little more time to scrounge through the gift shop for any more last minute gifts, and then loaded onto a bus to return to the San Jose Airport. The students relaxed in the terminal, many circling around tiny tables or the floor to play cards, while others curled up on seats for some much deserved sleep. The students will need this time to recuperate, for tomorrow they continue their busy week by touring Micron, as well as working even harder on their mission. However, with all of the knowledge they have gained in the past two days, it is fairly certain they will succeed.

These blogs will continue to be uploaded daily, once the students have completed their final activities each night. A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS Summer Academy Facebook  page, as well as to Twitterat ISAS_Academy. The students are eager to continue exploring Ames Research Center and have another busy day ahead of them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ISAS 2011 Academy 2 Day 3

The students were up bright and early this morning in order to catch their plane to San Jose, California, and eventually arrive at Ames Research Center. As the students piled onto the bus, they ran through mental checklists in their heads and jabbered excitedly with one another about what they would see that day. They arrived at the airport and made it through security without any trouble and ended up at the gate just before boarding began.

The flight to San Jose was quick and uneventful, and the students were greeted at the airport by a coach bus waiting to take them to Ames. The students stayed at the Navy Lodge, a hotel only a short walk from the entrance to Ames. In order to experience as much of the base as possible, the students dropped their belongings into one of the rooms and immediately entered the facility.

Students on the airplane
Their experience began with free time in the Ames Visitor’s Center, which was filled with interactive exhibits and a gift shop. The students received their first taste of Ames by exploring the multiple exhibits highlighting some of the center’s most famous and most recent contributions to NASA. The students also could sit down and view a live presentation detailing the structure of the universe.

At the Visitor's Center
After spending some time in the visitor’s center, the students were soon led by both the Director of Education at NASA Ames, Tom Clausen, and Education Specialist Tony Leavitt through Ames until the students reached the cafeteria on the base; Megabytes. The students were able to luncheon amongst soldiers and NASA scientists and even visit a secondary gift shop.

Directly after the luncheon, the students were led to a large auditorium to take part in the Director’s Colloquium Summer Session 2011. The Colloquium provides an opportunity for scientists and researchers to present ideas and results of experiments to others at Ames curious about their work. The students were fortunate to listen to a presentation by Dr. Natalie Batalha, a Co-Investigator working on the Kepler mission. After launching in 2009, the Kepler spacecraft has been searching for what fraction of stars in the galaxy harbor potentially habitable, earth-size planets. The students learned that Kepler has been one of NASA’s most recent and successful missions, having identified 21 definite earth-size planets with over a thousand more awaiting confirmation. Dr. Batalha inspired many of the students to even ask questions during a Q+A session despite the auditorium being filled with other scientists.

Students preparing to enter the Director's Colloquium
After the Colloquium, the students were split into two different groups in order to cover more ground during the day. The students were to visit three different facilities before the day ended. One of the facilities that the students visited was the 20 G centrifuge. The centrifuge is a facility used to test equipment, animals, and human beings’ tolerance to increased g forces. The students all listened intently as one of the scientists from the centrifuge discussed the history and the many uses of the centrifuge.

Another one of the facilities was called the VMS or Vertical Motion Simulator. The simulator was used by astronauts, including Idaho’s own Barbara Morgan, to practice controlling the space shuttle when landing. With a full range of motion, the simulator is one of the most realistic experiences of flying, without ever actually lifting off. The students crowded up against the window on the viewing platform as the simulator moved and rotated throughout an 11-story structure. As they watched a live feed from within the simulator, the students could not help but feel envious as a pilot maneuvered a simulated tilt-rotor aircraft above Ames Research Center.

Although tired from a long day of travelling, the students were taken to the last facility of the day, the breath-takingly large 80x120 wind tunnel. This wind tunnel, the largest in the world, is 80 feet high by 120 feet wide and has been where NASA has tested such renowned technologies as the space shuttle, parachutes for rovers and shuttles, and even an F-18 Blue Angels jet. The students also found out that many of the chutes tested in the wind tunnel were also dropped over their own state of Idaho during further testing. The students were led into the wind tunnel by Dr. Bill Warmbrodt who emphasized that the most important mission a scientist can be a part of is inspiring and educating younger students. His stories about the wind tunnel brought many smiles to the students who were already feeling the effects of the long day.
Listening to Dr. Bill Warmbrodt

Students in front of the 80x120 intake

Immediately after visiting the wind tunnel, the students were taken to a 1/3 scale model of the space shuttle for a quick and professional photo opportunity. Here the teams were assembled by color, with their respective mentors, and finally with the other teams and mentors intermingled for a ISAS group picture before heading back to Navy Lodge.

Upon returning to Navy Lodge, the students came back happy and tired, ready to dive into the delicious plates of lasagna and salad provided by the staff. While eating, the students were joined by a panel of scientists from Ames with expert knowledge to share with the four teams to help design their mission. The students were able to interact with the scientists and use their experience to enhance their missions. Afterwards, the students were allowed free time to relax and unwind from the long day.

These blogs will continue to be uploaded daily, once the students have completed their final activities each night. A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS Summer Academy Facebook  page, as well as to Twitterat ISAS_Academy. The students are eager to continue exploring Ames Research Center and have another busy day ahead of them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

ISAS 2011 Academy 2 Day 2

The students’ day began with a trip to the Simplot/Micron building at Boise State University, where they had a video conference with the NASA Chief Historian Dr. Bill Barry. Dr. Barry discussed the importance of space exploration not only to NASA, but also to the technological advancements consumers enjoy every day. The students were able to witness a complete view of NASA’s responsibilities to society from space flights to education. Students were able to receive a personal and in-depth discussion about exactly what NASA wants to pursue now that the space shuttle has been retired. Students also were surprised to learn about the newest influence of private sector companies on space travel. When given the opportunity, students were encouraged to ask questions concerning the future of space exploration, tips for their missions here at ISAS, as well as recommendations for their futures. 

The students then traversed across campus to the Boise State Engineering Building in order to listen to Jason Budinoff, an Aerospace Engineer from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He discussed with the students what responsibilities would be expected from the four different teams. The discussion opened with a quote that set the mood for the rest of the Academy, “You guys are all now NASA.” His personal experience in the field proved valuable in helping the students understand the gravity of the project they were undertaking. After learning what jobs they were to be involved with, the four teams (Red, Gray, Blue, and White) split up the Mars mission into four separate arenas: Mission Integration, Getting There, Living There, and Working There. The students became more lively and inquisitive upon hearing what was going to be required of them throughout the next week.

Students listening to Jason Budinoff

The guidelines for their mission were purposefully vague: Go to the Poles (on Mars), Stay for 30 days, and Come back. After discussion, the students split up into teams to debate further the goals of their teams and to develop the mission outline into a detailed mission plan. They then grouped back together, and presented their research to the entire Academy. They also had the opportunity to share their findings with Jason Budinoff where he was able to critique their work.

When the students returned from lunch, they were met with a discussion with Superintendent Tom Luna. He impressed upon the students the importance of education, and how the world has become entirely reliant upon information. “We have transitioned to an information age, and we need to make sure we have prepared students for an information age.” He discussed how students in Idaho are doing fairly well compared to national standards, but national standards are no longer the only necessary regulation that students need to adhere to. The Superintendent stressed how students now, and in the future, will be competing for jobs and internships on a grand international scale. The students were also applauded for their success, and given a challenge. “We set a high expectation, you guys have risen to that expectation…then you get to back to school next year to hopefully be a positive influence on other students about Math, Science, and Engineering…Be the leaders in your school.” Superintendent Luna wanted to let the students know that the newest standards of education in Idaho, are standards that are necessary for their success,“These standards are career and college ready.” He then opened the floor to the students to ask questions and hold a conversation. The students were responsive, and asked many different questions concerning education in Idaho, and what is being done to improve it for future students. 

“We have transitioned to an information age, and we need to make sure we have prepared students for an information age.” -- Superintendent Tom Luna

Students then split to work in their teams even further in order to meet their deadlines. After working for an hour, the students were then able to listen to a presentation about rockets by Corey Morasch from Micron  and Dr. David Hassinger. The students were amazed as a twelve foot rocket was casually brought into the lecture hall. The students learned about different fuels and rockets that are available to the everyday hobbyist, and were even able to watch videos of launches from both spectator and rocket point of views. 


The students were also given a presentation from Boise State University’s own Microgravity University Team. The students were fascinated with the stories from the Microgravity Team about their rides and experiments in the Zero G plane, affectionately known as the “Vomit Comet”. Both presentations helped the students gain a stronger understanding of the limitations of trying to reach space and what is necessary to remain in space.

Later in the evening, the students were also visited by Woody Sobey From the Discovery Center of Idaho  for a course in robotics. Four students from each team who expressed interest in robotics were selected to work on the team’s rovers. Being such a complicated system, Woody let the students know that they were about to cram a week’s worth of material into about a three hour time slot. The students immediately rolled up their sleeves and dived into working on the robots. Many different students took charge and displayed impressive leadership skills when organizing the robots. They all impressively worked hard to make their robots respond to different programs and follow a rigid set of instructions. The students who decided to not work on the robots split up into different computer labs to work on their mission. Students researched and held meetings throughout the evening, looking forward to the exciting day of travel which lay ahead.

Students working on robots

With the day winding down, the students began to prepare themselves for the exciting trip to NASA Ames Research Center during day three and four of the ISAS Summer Academy. These blogs will continue to be uploaded daily, once the students have completed their final activities each night. A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS Summer Academy Facebook page, as well as to Twitter at ISAS_Academy. The students have established themselves as mission control and are now ready for the trip to Ames Research Center. 

--Andrew Schrader, Jaime Guevara, LaCinda Villanueva--