JPL Reaches Out to Middle School Students

On Friday, October 21, UCLA presented UCLA Technology Day at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. About 1000 middle school students from inner city schools participated in presentations and hands-on demonstrations by area industry and laboratory representatives. JPL volunteers illustrated the microgravity research activities being performed by investigators in the microgravity program, and described the opportunities for science careers at NASA labs.

A video was prepared that showed levitation of samples of metal alloys in ground-based research, demonstrating substantial undercooling in certain materials, including a display of recalescence (a flash of reheating on solidification) in a eutectic alloy. Then scenes from the flight of the Drop Physics Module on STS-50 in 1992 presented oscillations and spinning of the large water samples that were deployed on that experiment. Especially impressive were the coalescence of a fog of drops to form a larger sphere, and the spinning to fission of a large water drop.

About 90 8th-grade students attended the microgravity demos in 3 sessions. The Microgravity Simulator drop tower provided the students with opportunities for participating in hands-on reduced-microgravity experiments. We employed a projector to place the camera image on a large screen, successfully providing all the students with a good view of the experiment results.