Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Steve Elwood Meets the Vomit Comet

Remember Roosevelt Middle School's Steve Elwood of the imploding barrel video? He and another eighth grade science teacher from Roosevelt were in the news recently. Elaine Buschman reports in the Herald Journal (Monticello, IN) that Elwood and fellow RMS teacher Becky Stiller spent ten days at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas. They got to work with astronauts and college engineering students on experiments. One afternoon, a live feed let Elwood and Stiller share a little of their ten-day stay with about 200 Roosevelt middle-schoolers.

Students packed a darkened cafeteria at Roosevelt to have a live question-and-answer session with Elwood and Stiller. Though all kinds of questions were asked, many students wanted to know about the new C-9 aircraft at Johnson Space Center which "flies in a roller coaster-like hill pattern and for about 20-25 seconds on each 'hill' has zero gravity, much like actual space travel." Because this roller-coaster motion nauseates some pilots, the craft is commonly known as the Vomit Comet. The zero-gravity environment allows experiments to be conducted in the kind of weightlessness found in space.

Students may have been disappointed to learn their teachers' stomachs wouldn't be tested by the Vomit Comet. Neither teacher is cleared to be on the plane. The experiments were conducted for Elwood and Stiller by Purdue University engineering students. The teachers got to pass on items to be used during the flights, such as an Elmo doll, M&Ms and spinning magnets. Elwood said of not being able to go on the Vomit Comet, "It’s like being at the Super Bowl but sitting on the bench."

After the live feed, Elwood said the students "were excited" and that he and Stiller were, too: "We were having a blast. (Stiller and I) both agree that this is one of the highlights of our teaching careers.” When Stiller and Elwood get back to Roosevelt after Spring Break, they will have lots of video and still images of the experiments conducted on the Vomit Comet. With these kinds of unique opportunities, teachers get to bring not only great material back to their students but also their excitement, joy and new experiences.

SOURCE: "Middle school teachers experiment at NASA center" 03/03/08
photo courtesy of Moody75, used under this Creative Commons license


Steve O'Keefe said...

I'm very curious about the technology used to deliver Steve Elwood and Becky Stiller back to the classroom. The article says they used a web cam, and the signal was hooked into a projector in the classroom.

I think the ability to bring remote teachers into classrooms in a meaningful way is at the heart of this blog. It's good to see that technology in practice.

Dedra Johnson said...

Videoconferencing is more and more common with cheap webcams (and laptops available with webcams), TVs, projectors, phone lines and Internet connections. It's a clear winner in bringing people to students.