Thursday, May 12, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE           April 7, 2011
FURTHER INFORMATION:            Paula Green (626) 914-8873, Stacy Armstrong (626) 857-4067


Citrus College Students Selected for NASA Summer Program
By Rachel White


In June, nine Citrus College students will defy gravity, courtesy of an elite college program sponsored by NASA. 

These students, known as the Citrus GraviTeam, were selected to participate in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. They will perform an experiment they proposed, designed and created while flying in a microgravity environment aboard the NASA C-9 “Weightless Wonder” aircraft.
The Citrus GraviTeam is comprised of Team Captain Craig Stremel, a math major from La Verne; flyers Gabriel Grier, an art major from Pomona; Harrison Ruiz, a physics major from Claremont; and Phoebe Sulzen, a math major from San Gabriel.  Wesley Gunter, an engineering major from Duarte will be the alternate flyer and Randall Acosta, an engineering major from West Covina; Jacqueline Deeb, an engineering major from Glendora; Branden Han, a biochemistry major from San Gabriel; and Joshua Huffaker, a biology major from Glendora will participate as ground crew members.

Stremel has past experience working with NASA. In November of 2010, he was selected to travel to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to participate in a three-day event known as the National Community College Aerospace Scholars Program. As a member of a student team, he helped develop a prototype rover for Mars exploration. Stremel felt he gained so much from the experience that he sought out another chance to work with NASA—and this time invited his friends to join him.

“This is an amazing undergraduate research opportunity,” Stremel said of the upcoming program. “It is great being surrounded with friends who study higher math, physics and engineering. We work so well together. This is a true team effort.”

Citrus College mathematics instructor Lucia Riderer is the GraviTeam faculty advisor and coordinator for the NASA research project. She said that developing an idea for an experiment to be tested in microgravity was a difficult challenge.

“We had such a short time to brainstorm and come up with an interesting idea,” she said. “Once the proposal was accepted by NASA, the students enrolled in an academic class created for this project. Watching my students work together so well in putting together a 49-page scientific proposal makes me feel very proud.  This experience helps me remember why I became a teacher 20 years ago.”

Riderer will accompany GraviTeam to Houston in June and will participate in the NASA activities with her class except for the actual reduced gravity flight. She gave her spot to one of her students.

Once they arrive at the Johnson Space Center, GraviTeam flyers will undergo a medical exam and physiological training before boarding the flight with the NASA crew. During the flight, they will experience “weightless” moments of microgravity, as the plane conducts parabolic (or curved) maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico.  At that time, the students will test their experiment, observing the phenomena of capillary action. In simple terms, the team will note the effect of reduced gravity on the speed of liquid running through tubes to spin a wheel. If the experiment is successful, its results could help create new methods of producing alternate sources of energy to power small devices in space such as satellites.

As part of their participation in the NASA program, GraviTeam will conduct academic outreach to K-12 schools. Huffaker, a biology major who wants to become a doctor, is heading up this task.

“We are inviting kids from local schools to Citrus and telling them about what we do and how an education in math, science or engineering can give them a chance to do some really cool things,” said Huffaker.

According to Riderer, her NASA students are embarking on an unforgettable adventure and are paving the way for other Citrus College students to have similar opportunities.

“They will experience the wonders of aerospace,” she said. “They will meet NASA engineers, and possibly astronauts, strong role models for their future careers. Once a Citrus College team has been accepted, the door is open for future teams. We intend to have a follow up proposal submitted to NASA next year, so many more students can benefit from this great program!”

The Citrus GraviTeam trip is partially funded by the Citrus College Foundation.  If you would like to help sponsor these students, please call the Foundation at 626-914-8825.




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE           April 7, 2011
FURTHER INFORMATION:            Paula Green (626) 914-8873, Stacy Armstrong (626) 857-4067