ropping In a Microgravity Environment

    NASA Drop Tower Competition for Schools


    Dropping In a Microgravity Environment

    Summary of DIME 2001


    Students from the two teams pose with the drop tower in the background.

    Sycamore High School team and teacher pose with their experiment.

    Sycamore High School team prepare their experiment for the next drop.

    COSI-Academy team and their advisor pose with their experiment.

    COSI-Academy team and their NASA mentor examine their data after a drop.

    The two student teams, NASA DIME personnel, and SCUBA instructors in the pool after their SCUBA instruction.

    The Dropping In a Microgravity Environment (DIME) high-school team competition conducted Drop Days on April 25-27, 2001 at the NASA Glenn Research Center 2.2-Second Drop Tower facility. The two participating high-school student teams brought their experiments to GRC and operated them in the drop tower just as regular NASA and academic researchers accomplish their research goals.

    Four high-school students from Sycamore High School in Cincinnati designed and built a combustion chamber to burn a sample of cotton T-shirt to investigate how clothing burns in a microgravity environment. The flame shape and spread was observed during the burn which was initiated before the drop. The four young ladies on this team were friends at high school, one wants to work for NASA in mission control, one wants to work in the aerospace industry, and one wants to be an astronaut. Their advisor has been busy in microgravity for years having arranged for a demonstrator drop tower to be built at their high school.

    Four high-school students from the Columbus area formed the other team as their project in the Center Of Science & Industry (COSI) Academy, a program run by COSI to offer additional educational opportunities for Columbus-area students. Their fluid experiment involved interaction of gas bubbles from a carbonated beverage with soybeans immersed in the fluid. The up and down motion of the soybeans was observed before, during, and after the microgravity conditions of the drop. The four young men on this team come from different schools, with three of them being home schooled. Despite not knowing each other before, they worked well as a cohesive team in the various tasks necessary for operating their experiment.

    Both teams' experiments operated successfully in the drop tower. There were surprises in the operation and the results for both teams. Each team made modifications to their experiment over the course of four drops that each team accomplished.

    During the DIME Drop Days, the students also participated in microgravity workshops, a GRC facility tour, and a SCUBA demonstration at their hotel pool. The SCUBA demonstration was arranged as a simulation of astronaut neutral buoyancy facility training for spaceflight EVA. Underwater, the two student teams separately constructed a PVC-pipe octagon which simulated a space station hatch opening. Each team member then swam through the opening without knocking it apart to accomplish the goals set by the SCUBA instructors.

    The Drop Days activities in the drop tower were web-cast by GRC Imaging Technology Center personnel and equipment so that the sponsoring schools and the students' parents could observe the activities of the teams in real time. During the web cast, the students were interviewed and explained their team, their experiment, and their future career goals. The video results for their experiments were also shown.

    DIME is a school-year-long activity where a team is formed to develop an experiment concept and write a proposal for accomplishing the experiment. GRC microgravity scientists and engineers select the top five proposals for those teams to further develop and build their experiment. The experiments are then sent to GRC for operation in the drop tower. DIME provides travel funds for four student team members and an advisor to visit GRC for the three-day Drop Days and operate their experiment. The 2001 DIME was a pilot year for Ohio-based schools and for the 2001-2002 school year, teams based in GRC's six state outreach area (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) will be eligible to participate.


    Check the DIME WWW page this summer for updates for DIME 2002.