As I write this, Endeavor is scheduled to launch on Monday after a delay of several weeks. That will be the penultimate launch for the shuttles. (I love the word, "penultimate.") Simultaneously, our partnership with NASA is gearing up as we prepare to send K-12 teachers aboard the "Weightless Wonder."
Last year, if you recall, I took 2 teams of 5 teachers each to Houston to fly aboard the plane. One team studied whether hot air rises in microgravity (it doesn't!) and the other what happens to corn starch and water (known as "Oobleck") when gravity is constantly changing. Both experiments were a huge success and had a significant impact on both the teachers and their students. (You can read the blog posts from this trip here.)
his is an experience rivaled by none other. The students have the opportunity to see me as the scientist I have always wanted to be, and they can see that the journey towards our goal was as important as the data we collected. I plan on using this experience in all of my classes.
Since then, there has been plenty of activity around a new K-12 educator program for 2011-2013. Just last month we signed off on what is called a "Space Act Agreement" with NASA that formalizes our partnership. That allows us to bring up to 14 teams of teachers to Houston each year. Without the budget mess in DC, many of the other national laboratories would have sponsored teams with us, but cuts to teacher programs meant that we had to put the full contingent off for a year. Instead, we're bringing 6 teams, a total of 30 teachers plus 6 mentors, a VIP, and a journalist for a total of 38 people. These teachers represent school districts in South Brunswick, Trenton, Princeton, Ewing, Matawan, Watchung Hills, Jersey City, The Peddie School, Philadelphia, and Auburn, Alabama.
We leave for Houston on July 21 and return July 29. Currently, teams are finalizing their experiments, getting input from their students, and preparing the various safety documents required by NASA before the flight is approved. We're meeting weekly so stay tuned!