June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.1414.1 - 13.1414.14
“Microgravity Research Team” (MRT) Project Course Abstract
Over the past eight years at West Virginia University a “hands-on” aerospace engineering experimental Microgravity Research Team (MRT) two-semester project course sequence has been developed and offered. During the first semester, the team of four to eight undergraduate students develops an experimental concept and hypothesis to be studied under microgravity conditions, and then submits a detailed technical proposal for their experiment for review by the NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program (RGSFOP). Six successful experiments have been selected and flown on microgravity research aircraft in the past eight years, with a seventh team selected to fly their experiment during the summer of 2008. The student teams also perform outreach to local area school children, develop an accurate project budget, and engage in fund raising activities. During the second semester the team conducts the actual detailed design, constructs and tests their experimental apparatus, and submits the required engineering design and safety analysis document, the “Test Equipment Data Package,” to NASA. This report is analyzed by NASA engineers, and any concerns they raise are addressed by the team to ensure that their experiment will be accepted for the actual reduced gravity flights. Either during this semester, or during the following summer, the team travels to NASA Johnson Space Center to conduct their research aboard the NASA microgravity research aircraft. Afterwards, the experimental results are reduced and analyzed, and a final technical report containing their analysis is submitted to the NASA RGSFOP. Outreach continues through this second semester; these outreach activities are also documented in the final report. As part of the outreach activities, a website is maintained to document and publicize the projects. The main course goal is to provide students with a hardware-oriented, hands-on, open-ended research project experience. This course can fulfill a technical elective requirement in either the Aerospace Engineering or Mechanical Engineering curriculum. The six experiments that have been conducted by the West Virginia University MRTs over the past eight years are, in chronological order: 1. Control of a surface tension-driven corner flow in microgravity, 2. Control of liquid sloshing in microgravity via the magnetic Kelvin force, 3. Control of air bubble behavior in microgravity via the magnetic Kelvin force, 4. Circular hydraulic jump behavior in microgravity I: low flow rate, 5. Control of boiling in microgravity via the magnetic Kelvin force, 6. Circular hydraulic jump behavior in microgravity II: high flow rate, and 7. Viscous and capillary fingering in a Hele-Shaw cell in microgravity (to be flown in summer 2008). Overviews of the experiments that have been conducted and course procedures are given. Examples of the many positive personal and professional outcomes experienced by student participants are also recounted. Lessons learned by the faculty advisors and suggestions for other schools planning to participate in this program are summarized.
Kuhlman, J., & Gray, D. (2008, June), “Microgravity Research Team” (Mrt) Project Course Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3935
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