Team: Starks, Janes, Marroquin, Smith, Escalon, Tarkington
On January 8, 2009, a team of educators arrived at Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field to conduct an experiment. This team was among 13 other teams that would conduct experiments aboard NASA’s “Weightless Wonder” C-9 aircraft as part of the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program.
The team members were chosen from more than 100 TAS (Texas Aerospace Scholars) educators throughout 2008 and include teachers and faculty from middle schools, high schools, and colleges in Texas. Each participant has shown a strong passion for working with students to motivate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the classroom.
“We are excited that our program provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for educators to inspire and motivate their students to study and understand the STEM fields. The teams gain useful skills by participating through collaborative planning and teamwork” said Doug Goforth, Program Manager.
TAS Team 2 focused their experiment on Newton’s first and second Laws of Gravity. What you will find on the site are lessons developed around the experiment as well as journals and links for further information about the experience.
This experiment shall involve magnetically releasing a 1 inch steel ball bearing (see Figure 3) down a two-foot length of acrylic tube. There will be four equally spaced photovoltaic gates, pairs of which shall be connected to electronic timers (see Figure 1) will collect data as the ball bearing enters and exits each photovoltaic gate. The first timer will indicate the velocity at gates A and B as well as between gates A and B. The second timers will indicate the velocity at gates C and D as well as between gates C and D. Six trials will be performed in lunar gravity, Martian gravity and zero gravity. The ball bearing will be released from started position without any additional force being applied by removing the magnet that holds the ball bearing at the top of the angled acrylic tube. Since no motion will occur for the six trials at zero gravity, additional trials using a slight force will be conducted in zero gravity. The force will be applied using a spring loaded actuating device (see Figure 2) set at three slightly different forces. Each of the three different forces will be used for six trials. After each trial the metal ball bearing (see Figure 3) will be brought to the starting position using a strong magnet. The actuator is magnetized and shall be capable of holding the ball to the tip of the actuating pin during microgravity.
For each trial, one flyer will activate the timers, store the data, and ready them for the next trial. The second flyer will use the magnet to hold the ball in place prior to start, release the ball at the start and use the magnet again to retrieve the ball for the next trial.
The data collected in Earth’s gravitational field prior to the flight, microgravity, simulated moon gravity, and simulated Mars gravity will be compared using both data tables and graphs to determine if the acceleration and final velocities will be consistent in all four environments or if there are measurable differences in values and whether that translates to differences in the amount of force needed to set an in object in motion in the 4 different environments or if the changes in velocities will be linear. Further analysis will include observations of whether the differences if they exist reflect an increase or decrease in acceleration for the three gravitational variations in comparison to the acceleration due to gravity on Earth. All of this will be videotaped to put together an interactive learning lab that allows the students to go along on the journey and try to determine some of the outcomes before they occur.
|Figure 1: Electronic Timer
||Figure 2: Spring Loaded Actuating Device
|Figure 3: 1-inch Ball Bearing
||Figure 4: Experiment Setup NOTE: 2 additional Photovoltaic Gates and 1 additional timer are not shown. Plexiglas corners will be rounded.