Though many people trip over physics problems even when rooted to the ground, some Citrus College students will soon test an experiment while weightless above the clouds in a NASA C-9 aircraft.
In October, the Citrus GraviTeam was formed to prepare and complete an experiment in a weightless environment.
The concept was the brainchild of Citrus student Craig Stremel—who had previously participated in the National Community College Aerospace Scholars Program in Huntsville, Alabama—and Professor Lucia Riderer.
The challenge was to think of an experiment that could be performed in what is called "microgravity", would be considered “good physics” (as described by both Stremel and Riderer), be original, and have a relevant application. It was clear that this was a unique opportunity.
“Usually you don’t get a chance to do research like this at the junior college level,” said Stremel. “Usually it’s limited to four-year universities, so we feel really fortunate.”
The project that Stremel and Riderer decided on and will be performed by the nine-member GraviTeam entails capillary action.
The capillary action idea—in its simplified form—is to force a liquid through a tube to spin an axial blade—“a little wheel,” as Riderer describes. The experiment could yield a potential power source for low-orbit satellites, he said.
“Craig and I spent a lot of time brainstorming,” explained Riderer. “What we tried to keep in mind was ‘what physical effect could be enhanced,’” in microgravity.
After the idea for the experiment was formed, the next task was to assemble the team that would make it happen.
Luckily, Citrus has many dedicated math and physics students, and Stremel filled the team roster for the most part with friends, supplemented by some very talented draftees.
The next issue became the funding of the project, which needed community awareness of the importance of the experiment and support for local kids trying to do something outstanding.
While the team has engaged in grassroots f undraising—such as its recent bake sale—the Citrus College Foundation also offered a helping hand.
“The foundation felt that these were deserving students competing against four- year universities,” explained the foundation’s Executive Director June Stephens. “When our students are competing nationally, that’s something we’re extremely honored to see.”
The hours spent working at the drawing board, using complicated physics and mathematics equations, as well as the time spent raising funds, should all pay off in June, when the experiment is due to take place.
Though the team understands its primary focus is the experiment and its results, its members are pretty excited about the surrounding hoopla.
“I think if you ask any one of us, the coolest thing is going to be getting to wear the jumpsuit with the aviators,” said Stremel. “Seeing the NASA logo on the tail of the plane is going to be really exciting.”
To donate to the organization call (626) 914-8825, or visit http://citrusgraviteam.blogspot.com/ for more information.