Monday, June 10, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 145



NASA program a success with students

By Luis Zepeda
The Daily Cougar

Equipped with a set of goggles that shifted her vision upside-down, a 12-year-old was trying her best to draw a line within a path without touching its edges. Meanwhile, her peers tried to distract her from the task. They succeeded.

More than 60 seventh graders from the Knowledge Is Power Program Academy in Houston got a taste of life in space with a series of presentations on Friday at The Texas Learning and Computation Center in the Philip Hoffman Hall at UH.

The event, titled "How to Keep Your Groove On in Space," featured hands-on experiences for the pupils like building a space station entirely with candy and testing their psychomotor skills in star tracing and hand grip strength. 

"These tests are designed to measure astronauts' speed and accuracy, and how performance is affected by stress," said Jay Lee, assistant professor at the Health and Human Performance department. "Distractions, group dynamics and how astronauts get along are very important."

NASA's Neuroscience Lab, which studies the human body's adaptation to life in space, and the Universities Space Research Association, focused among other topics on space nutrition, also presented facts and artifacts used on space missions.

A space medical kit and a vest that monitors muscles' electrical signs were some of the pieces of advanced technology put on display, provoking curious looks from the seventh-graders.

Among the facts that raised the interest of the group is how water is recycled in space. Since water is not available in deep space, recycling is critical. Sweat and urine are recycled and purified for later use. A USRA representative explained that water produced by the process is purer than water on earth.

Another presentation challenged the pupils to build a replica of the International Space Station with gum, chocolate candy and lollipops. The stations' solar panels were made of chocolate candy wrapping. 

Pupils at the KIPP Academy had to earn their right to attend the presentations, says Elliott Witney, teacher and assistant school director at the KIPP Academy in Houston.

"Nothing in life is free, several of them are not here because they didn't earn the trip. It reinforces the idea that to get things in life you have to earn them," Witney said.

The KIPP Academy, founded in 1994, is a public middle school that offers accelerated classes to pupils committed to earn their way to college. Next for the schoolchildren is a meeting today with astronaut Ellen Ochoa, who took a banner from KIPP Academy on her most recent mission, and will talk about her experiences as an astronaut.

"One of the things we like to do is supplement their curriculum in the classroom with opportunities like this outside the classroom to reinforce the concepts that we talked about," Witney said. "We want to provide them a more global view of the world that what they'd get at their apartment complex."

"How to Keep Your Groove On in Space" was the last of a series of events at UH that featured a live webcast of the 8th European Symposium on Life Sciences Research in Space, in Stockholm, Sweden. Participants virtually attended its sessions at the TLC2 last week.

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