Northwest Nazarene University’s Team Super-Hydro, a group of six engineering students, returned from NASA’s 2011 Microgravity University SEED Flight Week at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. Team Super-Hydro successfully completed their research aboard NASA’s specially equipped jet nicknamed the “Weightless Wonder” during flights last week. The aircraft flew a series of 32 parabolas, a steep climb followed by a free fall producing a 20 second period of weightlessness each time, over the Gulf of Mexico.
The team left Nampa March 28 and went through extensive training and engineering reviews prior to being approved for flight April 5-6.
Weston Patrick, team leader from Wasilla, Alaska said, “Our program worked flawlessly. We got great data, and we’re all very happy. I’ve been inspired by being around NASA for the last week, and then of course just getting to participate in the program”
Team Super-Hydro was charged with testing how water interacts with a high-tech material recently developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The team conducted two experiments nicknamed “David” and “Moses” to study super hydrophobic (water repellent) material in zero-gravity. This material peaked NASA’s interest as they seek to find new ways of building more water-efficient plumbing systems for future space missions.
A final report is due to NASA in June. The team will use the upcoming weeks to review and analyze high-speed video they collected in 0G and 2G to prepare their report. Team Super-Hydro also plans to return to the area schools they visited earlier this year to report on their findings.
NNU Department of Engineering Chair Dan Lawrence, Ph.D. said, “Now we go back and we look at conservation momentum and energy to determine whether or not this super hydrophobic material could work for pipe coatings and different things in space.”
In addition to their experiment, the team toured Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control and the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (underwater training facility). They also met with active astronauts Barry Wilmore and Clay Anderson from NASA and former astronaut and NNU alum Rick Hieb. Today Hieb serves as the vice president of Exploration and Science division within Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions-Civil Organization.
NNU Professor Stephen Parke, Ph.D. said, “Our students got to see the next U.S. manned spacecraft, the ORION, sit inside it and fly its simulator to the International Space Station where they docked successfully. The entire week’s experiences were a dream come true and truly career-changing for us. We thank the Lord for such a great opportunity.”
Team members included team leader Weston Patrick (Wasilla, Alaska), Chad Larson (Medford, Ore.), Grady Turner (Nampa, Idaho), Jordan Hush (Boise, Idaho), Kevin Halle (Edmonds, Wash.) and Jesse Baggenstos (Renton, Wash.). Faculty mentors included Dr. Stephen Parke and Dr. Dan Lawrence who accompanied Team Super-Hydro to NASA. Dr. William Packard also helped the team prepare for their experiment.