Students experiment with NASA microgravity aircraft
Students from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and San Jacinto College North were recently given the opportunity to test research on a NASA microgravity aircraft.
This team of students was selected along with approximately a dozen other teams from across the country to take part in NASA’s Microgravity University Systems Engineering Educational Discovery (SEED) Program.
The team consisted of team leader Chris Burns, Henry Ascencio and Paul Cusco from UH–Clear Lake, and Ryan Page, Jarrett Lockridge and Michael Norman from SJC North. The team was assisted by Nathanial Wiggins, SJC professor of mathematics and engineering. Elizabeth Hewer worked with the team as ground crew and school outreach director.
The SEED program allows college and university teams to conduct scientific research in a specially equipped aircraft that reduces gravity. The aircraft executes a series of parabolic maneuvers, climbing and dropping to provide about 15-20 seconds of microgravity as it falls.
“The Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program at NASA provides undergraduate students the opportunity to work with NASA engineers and scientists as researchers in a unique microgravity laboratory environment,” said NASA Acting Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program manager Veronica Seyl. “These students have worked for six months designing, fabricating and preparing their experiment to fly onboard the microgravity aircraft. The entire process and opportunity for these students is a catalyst to developing career and life skills charting their course after graduation.”
The project that the UH–Clear Lake and SJC North team worked on was called “Robotic Control Using Gesture and Voice: Use of Voice Commands and Body Motion to Control Robotic Components in a Microgravity Environment.” The project utilized Xbox 360 Kinect technology to operate gesture- and voice-controlled robots within the microgravity aircraft.
“It’s hard to describe the experience and the opportunity to test an experiment while weightless,” said Burns in the press release. “I definitely urge everyone who has an interest in science, engineering or math to apply to one of the microgravity programs.”
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