Delaware Technical Community College Students Conduct Experiments Aboard NASA’S “Weightless Wonder”

DOVER – Four Delaware Technical Community College students ventured to NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston to conduct experiments aboard the “Weightless Wonder” aircraft this summer. Delaware Tech is the only institution representing Delaware in this study, joining institutions such as Yale, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and more.

The Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program (RGEFP) gives undergraduate students the opportunity to propose, build and fly experiments in reduced gravity. The teams performed the experiments aboard a microgravity aircraft which produces periods of weightlessness for up to 25 seconds at a time by executing a series of approximately 30 roller coaster-like parabolas over the Gulf of Mexico. During the free falls, the students gathered data in the unique environment that mimics space.

Delaware Technical Community College team’s opportunity to participate is the result of the hard work and commitment of students Robin Depto (team lead), Ryan Caulfield, Jeffrey Szczubelek and Diego Zelaya; and faculty supervisors Michael Cimorosi and Navarun Jagatpal. The team was selected based on scientific merit and educational outreach potential from more than 60 proposals. They have put many hours into researching and building their experiment. They are also taking time to reach out to other students and the community to share their unique experiences and discoveries.

“We are excited that our program provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for aspiring scientists and engineers to study and understand their craft. The students gain useful skills by participating in the program through collaborative planning and teamwork,” said Doug Goforth, RGEFP Manager.

The Delaware Technical Community College student team travelled to Ellington Field, where astronauts do their T-38 training. They then went through physiological training and flew their experiment during the week of July 16-20, 2012. This experiment tested the team’s mathematical model of vertical projectile motion, which includes the effect of drag as well as gravity. Video recordings demonstrated such motion under various conditions of gravity. Following their flight, the team will evaluate findings, draw conclusions and provide the results to NASA.

For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, visit: http://reducedgravity.jsc.nasa.gov/ or contact Rachel Kraft at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Public Affairs Office, at (281) 792-7690, or rachel.h.kraft@nasa.gov.

Pictured in the photo are (L-R): Diego Zelaya, Nav Jagatpal, Mike Cimorosi, Robin Depto, Jeffrey Szczubelek, Ryan Caulfield.