Students Understanding Reduced-Gravity Flight

1995 SURF Academy Competition Guidelines

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The 1995 Texas S.U.R.F. Summer Academy

In July 1995, four teams of Texas university students participated in the flight phase of a program called the Students Understanding Reduced-Gravity Flight (SURF) Summer Academy, which was supported by NASA-funded grants from the Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) and NASA Headquarters. The four selected teams - three from Rice University and one from Texas A&M University - developed and flew experiments aboard NASA 930, Johnson Space Center's microgravity research aircraft that flies a roller-coaster-like flight profile over the Gulf of Mexico. During each two- to three-hour flight, the aircraft maneuvered through steep climbs and descents. At the top of each ascent, the passengers inside experienced approximately 25 seconds of weightlessness; at the bottom, approximately one-to-two minutes of two-G conditions.

The opportunity to fly an experiment and experience weightlessness was the "bait" used to attract the attention of top graduate and senior-level undergraduate students through a state-wide, peer-reviewed competition. Each team consisted of two-to-four students and a supervising professor. In a period of only two months, a number of teams from colleges and universities across the state designed experiments and wrote proposals to take advantage of the reduced-gravity environment provided by the NASA 930. The four selected teams were given only six more weeks to build, test, and flight-certify their test equipment. The result: each of the four flew, operated successfully, and provided the data sought in their respective research designs.

The selected projects were:

"Fluids Climbing Spinning Rods in Reduced Gravity:" In this experiment, team members dipped rotating rods into a pool of fluid and observed how the fluid migrates up the rods. (Rice University)

"Molecular Diffusion in Zero Gravity:" Team members explored how gas disperses under different pressures in microgravity conditions. (Rice University)

"Visualization Study of Pool Boiling Heat Transfer and Critical Heat Flux in Reduced Gravity:" Team members boiled water inside a vacuum chamber to measure the efficiency of the heat transfer process under different accelerations. (Texas A&M University)

"Fluid Interfaces in Microgravity:" This experiment investigated how fluids behave in microgravity, particularly at the liquid-gas interface.(Rice University)

In addition to performing the experiments, each team developed a program for sharing its research results with teachers, students, and the general public. After analyzing their data, participants prepared educational or informational materials, and submitted final reports to receive academic credit toward their degrees.

For any questions contact Burke Fort, Texas SURF Summer Academy Director.


Tuesday, 27-Jan-2004 19:55:12 CST