Thursday, May 24, 2012
Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy science students are creating magnets, robots and lunar buggy prototypes thanks to NASA.
CGLA is the recipient of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center 2012 NASA Summer of Innovation Grant. The grant, applied for by CGLA science/chemistry teacher Nancy Olenchek, will offer science enrichment for middle school students. The participants will study lunar plant growth, zero-gravity architecture, urban planning on the moon, rocketry and robotics.
“Students are working on electromagnets to look at magnetic field,” said Olenchek. “It’s similar to our earth magnetosphere. The electromagnets can be turned on and off. It leads to discussions about gravity. We look at gravity between the earth versus the moon.”
Olenchek is a NASA Express teacher and, as such, operates a NASA classroom. CGLA is considered a GRAIL MoonKam School (meaning Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students).
CGLA students have been following two satellites titled Ebb and Flow that NASA sent into space in September.
CGLA students focus on the moon by creating lunar buggy prototypes. Olenchek said her science students will soon be constructing a lunar plant growth chamber to grow lettuce through hydroponics, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water without soil.
Students will also launch Estes handmade rockets measuring 4 to 5 feet tall in the near future.
“We will talk live on NASA TV with mission control at the Johnson Space Center,” said Olenchek, a polymer chemist. “I also have in the works for kids to talk live with the International Space Station.”
Olenchek said her students have won four LEGO Robotics trophies for designing robots in class controlled by laptop keys.
“NASA has immense resources in education,” she said. “A sixth-grader in 10 years will graduate college. NASA wants a moon colony by that year.”