Boston University Academy Educators Gear Up for Trip to NASA and Reduced Gravity Flight

in Boston University Academy, News Releases
June 21st, 2011

Contact: Kira Jastive, 617-358-1240 | kjastive@bu.edu

(Boston) – Next week a team of four Boston University Academy (BUA) educators will travel to NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston, TX where they will participate in the space agency’s Reduced Gravity Education Program (RGEFP). RGEFP is a program that gives undergraduate students and K – 12 educators the opportunity to propose, build and fly a reduced gravity experiment aboard NASA’s “Weightless Wonder,” a microgravity aircraft that produces a nearly weightless environment similar to space for 18 – 25 seconds at a time by executing a series of parabolas over the Gulf of Mexico.

The team from BUA, a private high school affiliated with Boston University, is one of only 14 teams of educators selected from a nation-wide pool of applicants to train for and fly aboard the reduced gravity aircraft. While in flight, they will conduct a pendulum experiment designed with input from both BUA and Boston University students. The team includes James Berkman, Head of School and instructor; Gary Garber, physics and calculus instructor; Rosemary White, chemistry instructor; and Laurie Glenn, Ancient Greek and Latin instructor.

“We are thrilled to have been chosen for this exciting opportunity,” Berkman said. “We have quite an eclectic mix of individuals on our team and we believe this will only add to the uniqueness of this experience. Gary Garber has been working hard to prepare our team’s experiment so that we can bring good data back to Boston for our students to study next year.”

BUA began its application process with NASA this spring and was required to submit an outline of the proposed experiment including which scientific concepts would be tested, what the expectations are of the experiment, how this will enhance learning by BUA students and how the experiment’s results will be communicated to the BUA community.

During their time at Ellington Field (from June 24 – July 2), the team will undergo physiological training for their flight and will complete any final preparations on their experiment. While aboard the “Weightless Wonder,” they will conduct a common high school physics experiment that explores the effects that different variables, such as mass and length, will have on the period of a simple pendulum. Although the period of a pendulum also depends on acceleration due to gravity, changing this variable is not easily accomplished in the classroom. By setting a pendulum in motion at various gravitational accelerations during their flight, the BUA educators hope to obtain a set of data for students to verify the theoretical dependence of the period of a pendulum on gravity.

“By bringing our experience and data back to Boston University Academy classrooms, we hope to enrich the already strong science program we offer our students,” said Berkman.

For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, visit http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov.

Boston University Academy is a small, day school for students in grades 9 through 12. Founded in 1993, the Academy offers a “ceilingless” educational experience, one in which students’ zeal for learning takes them as far as they are capable. Academy students may begin taking courses at Boston University in their junior year, earning college credit in up to twelve courses by graduation. For more information, please visit http://www.buacademy.org.

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