NASA’s SOFIA Flight 9-25-17

My Excellent Adventure!

My flight on SOFIA went off last Monday, but not without a few hiccups. During our mission briefing before the flight, it was explained that our flight path, originally scheduled to head up into Canada, was now headed out near Hawaii. SOFIAPath I’m not clear on all the reasons it changed. We had 5 or 6 targets during the mission … the flight path is designed to get the 2.5 meter wide telescope that is embedded in the side of the 747 pointed in the right direction for each target.

Not long after we boarded I was told I’d been chosen to sit in the cockpit with the pilots during takeoff. It was a wondrous experience! Our takeoff was delayed however because the telescope operators were having problems getting some of the instrumentation to turn on … no use taking-off if the telescope wasn’t working. I was up in the cockpit, but my comrades down below told me later that I missed this incredible problem solving effort by the entire team.

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One of the highlights of the 10 hour flight was talking with Chao-Wei Tsai, a scientist from UCLA who was on the flight to study a super massive black hole. IMG_0970

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in the flight I was able to sit with Samuel Richards IMG_0996 who was one of the telescope operators that night.  During our conversation they lost a connection to the telescope and I watched as he and his assistant (and the rest of the team) problem solved the issue. Window after window of computer code was opened and checked … occasionally a line of code was edited until they found the problem lines of code and they were back online … what was awesome was how everyone communicated and stayed calm under the pressure of getting the telescope back online. Getting your chance to use the telescope is beyond highly competitive, and if things go wrong getting another chance to fly is somewhat problematic.

Here are more photos and videos taken before and during the flight by me and other members of our group.

SOFIA took off today to position itself to chase the shadow of Neptune’s moon Triton on Thursday. More about that soon. Much more to tell here about my experience than I have time to write about. Hope to share more later.

Learning is messy!

Chasing Triton’s Shadow – Neptune’s Moon Will Cast Shadow on Earth

SOFIA can travel where the action is

A few weeks back I travelled with a NASA sponsored team to Idaho to launch high altitude balloons during the recent total eclipse. We sent up various cameras, data recorders and more (even an Idaho potato) to record data and media at high altitude during totality (being up above any possible weather or smoke is an added bonus). We travelled to Idaho from Reno and Las Vegas because that was where totality would occur. We only would have experienced a partial eclipse if we’d stayed home and would have missed out on important data you can only record during totality. Since then we have shared almost all the data and media we recorded and will continue to do so.

Partly because of that experience (and other NASA projects I’ve been allowed to be part of), my experience with the RECON project and because my job requires me to have a social media presence and share resources and experiences via those connections, NASA recruited me to take a flight on SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy). My flight is scheduled for September 25th – here’s the observation plan for that night. Needless to say I’m thrilled and honored to have this opportunity!

SOFIA over the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I’ve been told we will takeoff about 7:00 PM and not land until 5:00 AM the next morning, so 10 hours in air.

SOFIA’s infrared telescope weighs in at 19 tons (38,000 pounds) and was built in Germany.

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP. Note the large door in it’s side that when open exposes a 2.5 meter (100 inch) wide reflecting infrared telescope to the sky.

So why put a telescope in a 747 and fly all night recording data? Seems expensive for something you can do on the ground from much larger telescopes.

SOFIA generally flies between 12,000 and 13,000 meters (39,000 and 43,000 feet), and that is important. It’s important because at those altitudes you are above most of the Earth’s atmosphere and humidity. The “Twinkling” of the stars in the sky experienced from the ground is caused by the starlight traveling through the atmosphere’s humidity and variations in temperature. You are also above clouds, most air pollution and other factors (like bad weather) that limit grounded telescopes from obtaining a clear view (also why the Hubble space telescope gets such awesome observations even though it is much smaller that many ground based telescopes on Earth).

A huge advantage SOFIA has over ground based telescopes is that it can go where the action is  – like when it travelled to New Zealand to capture Pluto’s occultation of a star

 

 

 

ANNNND it will travel to the US east coast on October 5th to Chase Triton’s Shadow over the Atlantic Ocean.

From SOFIA’s media outlet: “As Neptune’s moon Triton passes in front of a distant star, it will cast a faint shadow on Earth’s surface. The team of researchers will carefully map the path of that shadow and then fly into it to study Triton’s atmosphere, directly, for the first time in 15 years. SOFIA will takeoff from Florida to catch the shadow that will fall over the Atlantic Ocean. The shadow is moving; the plane is moving; and the predicted path may change in flight, making catching the shadow very challenging. Researchers are trying to determine if Triton’s atmosphere is expanding or collapsing and if haze last seen by the Voyager mission is still present.” triton-final[1][1][1] (link to flyer)

I won’t be on the flight chasing Triton’s shadow (it happens over a week later than mine), but that gives me the opportunity to pass on what I learn about SOFIA in preparation for the October 5th flight. I will be presenting about Chasing Triton’s Shadow and SOFIA locally in Reno and I’m available to visit local schools and even video-conference in pretty much anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be adding more posts about SOFIA soon and you can follow me on Twitter @bcrosby. I’ll be uploading photos to FLICKR as well, I’ll post the link when I post photos.

Learning is messy!

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Math & Science Institute – for teachers

In New Orleans ... and it's FREE!

Earlier this year I agreed to lead two grant funded STEM professional development courses for teachers sponsored by Metairie Park Country Day School, June 7th, 8th and 9th, 2017. The courses will be held at Tulane University in New Orleans as part of the 2017 Math & Science Institute. AND NOTE THIS – You just have to get there – tuition is FREE! (note the flyer to the right for more information). Note: private school teachers have to pay $149 per course.

Each course is about 6 hours long spread over the 3 days (2 hours per day, per course). Here’s a page with all the course descriptions.

I’ll be teaching 2 courses: “Powerful, Connected, Collaborative and Global STEM Learning” and “STEM: Hands-on, Minds-on, Creativity-on”

From the online course description:

STEM: Hands-On, Minds-On, Creativity-On is a six-hour course designed to help teachers integrate powerful STEM learning with a focus on engaging, hands-on engineering lessons. Participants will not only experience the lessons firsthand, but also how to collect and analyze the rich data the lessons produce. Strong connections to science, language arts, technology, art, the Next Generation Science Standards and three dimensional learning will be included. Most lesson activities utilize easily obtained materials.

Powerful, Connected, Collaborative, Global, STEM Learning is a six-hour course designed to allow you to see how the power of STEM inquiry projects are leveraged when students are connected and collaborate globally.

There are several Common Core State Standards that require students to utilize technology to collaborate starting in elementary school. This course will provide hands-on engineering lessons and phenomena – coupled with free or cheap collaborative online tools that promote sharing and analyzing data, explanations, global awareness and much more. Participants and their students will learn to collaborate and share through powerful writing, oral language, photography, math, art and other media. Online safety and ethics will be featured.

Check out the 2017 Math & Science Institute home page to see all the courses being offered.

Hope to see you there!

Learning is messy!

WyTECC Keynote

STEM Is A Culture, Not a Time of Day or Day of the Week

So much going on right now so my plans to blog more often have taken another hit. One of the things going on that I’m really looking forward to is my participation in the Wyoming Technology Engagement Curriculum Connection (WyTECC) in Rock Springs, Wyoming in early May. May 6th to be exact.

 

I’ll be providing the keynote and 2 to 3 breakout sessions. They asked for a “STEM-ish” theme so I’m redesigning my “STEM Is A Culture, Not a Time of Day or Day of the Week” presentation and plan to build in more STEM experiences. My sessions will focus on STEM inquiry and the important parts that get left out too often because the activity is engaging, the students get excited, time runs short and we skip the parts that really make STEM learning powerful.

Hope to see you there!

Learning is messy!

Underwater and Aerial Vehicles – Pyramid Lake Edition

It was a crisp and glorious day at Pyramid Lake...

Above: Panorama of Pyramid Lake including the Tufa formations “Stone Mother” and the Pyramid that gives the lake it’s name. Note the people on the beach between the formations for a scale of size.

Between a busy work and holiday schedule, and a bout of aggressive bronchitis, I’m late with some posts – this is one of them … and it’s an experience worth sharing! First I want to thank the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe for giving us special permission to visit this special and sacred part of the Pyramid Lake shore to “test drive” our OpenROV 2.8’s and fly Phantom 3 Professional aerial robots as well.

Back in October we were supposed to put the underwater robots the teachers had painstakingly assembled into the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe to further test them and learn piloting skills. However, that day got “weathered out” by rain and high winds. The next time we could schedule a meet-up was December 3rd. It was a crisp and glorious day at Pyramid Lake. We met at the turn-off from the highway to the dirt road that leads out to the spot in the photo above. Besides the teachers having this opportunity, Trevor Galvin a math teacher at Pyramid Lake Middle and High School is part of our class and he brought along some current and past students and a few others’ students showed up as well.

Here’s how a local TV report explained the day:

The OpenROV’s have a built-in camera and the water was much clearer than we expected: 

 

 

 

Algae covered tufa formations and lake bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the bright sunlight the computer screens were hard to see, so when one of the students reported that he could see something floating in the water straight ahead we told him to take pictures  so we could see it later. Turns out it was a large sacred Cui-ui fish:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And next another student piloted 2.8 caught a Lahontan Cutthroat Trout:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the meantime Kirk Ellern was flying the Phantom 3 Professional drones the teachers had been trained in (and so were teachers and students) with the goal of photo/video archiving the experience and the area in aerial video. Kirk produced this video of the day, but more to come:


I’ll be posting more about classroom visits I’m making with the teachers in the grant from their classrooms.

Here’s a link to a Flickr album from the day.

Learning is messy!

EduCon 2.9 – 2017 – Innovate or Die vs. Innovate and Die

Kevin Jarrett and I are teaming up for a robust conversation

Innovate or Die vs. Innovate and Die: How to Cultivate a Classroom Culture of Innovation Despite the Odds and Risks to your Career

Above is the title to the session conversation, and I do mean conversation, NOT presentation, Kevin Jarrett and I will facilitate during EduCon 2.9 in Philadelphia. I’ve only been to one EduCon (2.2) because of my schedule it always seems to elude me. I led a conversation then entitled “Elementary School In The 21st Century, How Does The Pedagogy Change? What Does That School Look Like?”. Doug Taylor, an oft time co-conspirator of mine co-facilitated that day.

Kevin and I both (like so many others) seethe at the slow pace of innovation and change in education. Below is the text from the EduCon 2.9 web site about the session. Come be a participant in the conversation:

Saturday, January 28, 2017 – SESSION 2 – 1:00 – 2:30 – Room 208

Brian Crosby, Kevin Jarrett — Brian Crosby – Pre-K – 12 STEM Learning Facilitator, Nevada’s Northwest Regional Professional Development Program; Kevin Jarrett – STEAM teacher at Northfield Community Middle School

A discussion of the productive tensions facing innovators at all levels of leadership, formal to informal, classroom to central office, as they dare to advance new ideas and transform professional practices, often despite seemingly insurmountable organizational inertia and even hostile political environments. Kevin and Brian will use their personal experiences as the starting point for the group’s exploration of “typical” (and not-so-typical) challenges facing those who willingly disregard the status quo in pursuit of what’s best for kids.

The basic gist is this: great teachers want to innovate; how do they do so, and how far do they go, without potentially angering colleagues, administrators and clients and destroying their careers?

What does / could / should innovation look like?

How and can we make innovation happen?

Who needs permission?

How do we get this message to, “The leaders that will lead us to this?”

What examples do we have that this works?

How do we effectively promote innovative classrooms / schools / districts doing this already?

How do you grow seeds of innovation into more than isolated pockets of innovation, in a world where ‘accountability’ and data are more of a focus than ever before?

Since much of what this looks like defies easy measurement, what measures CAN we use?

Conversational Practice

This will be a conversation that embraces the adage that, “The smartest person in the room is the room itself.” Kevin and Brian will take on the role of facilitators, and while they will add to the conversation, their goal will be to incite the participants in the room to explore the productive tensions in the room. A private wiki will be used to gather thoughts and compile summary observations. In addition, we plan to use the ‘Sucks vs. Rocks’ methodology, described by Darren Kuropatwa here: http://adifference.blogspot.com/2014/10/assessment-rocks-and-sucks.html

Conversation Links

http://www.learningismessy.com

http://about.me/kjarrett

 Learning is messy!

New STEM Lessons / Activities Wiki

STEMLessonsActivities

 

Per request I recently set up a new wiki page as a kind of “clearinghouse” of the different STEM lessons and activities I write about on this blog and elsewhere to make them easier to find. I’ll update it regularly and perhaps add support links for the different lessons as well. There is also a link to the wiki on this blog under the link at the top of this page “STEM Lessons/Activities.”

Learning is messy!

Exploring STEAM Education

Through Resilience and Design

When I was approached months ago about being part of this STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math) training at the Nevada Museum of Art this Saturday I jumped at it.STEAM_teacher_training_flyer_winter_2016-3_pdf There are close to 100 teachers registered and a waiting list … apparently there is a an unmet demand – who’da thunk> 🙂

Cheryl Barton will be kicking things off with her keynote, “The Theory of Here.”

To tie-in to Cheryl’s work I’m doing a hands-on lesson with cantilever spans that I’m adding an aesthetics component to that I’m excited about. I’ll be doing it 4 times during the day and have to fit it into 50 minute periods … I’ll let you know how it goes.

Learning will be messy!

One Way To Get More Girls/Women Interested In STEM

(and actually everyone)

This is a subject I see consistently being discussed online and in meetings I’m involved in as part of my job. That is, how do we get more girls/women involved in STEM? I don’t mean for this to be “THE” answer, but part of it for sure, and its not that difficult to implement.

So what is it?

Provide a broad, rich, integrated curriculum that includes science, engineering and inquiry based learning opportunities from an early age. Pre-school is not too early – and it is solid learning, so it should start there – but honestly I got students in 4th grade that came with almost no experience in those areas, and provided lots of STEM and/or project/problem based opportunities for 3 years, and my girls were just as involved, interested and motivated as the boys in STEM (and I know other teachers that have had similar experience).

Perhaps the problem of getting girls/women “involved in STEM” is that too often what we offer in elementary school just doesn’t include much in those areas. And certainly during the “No Child Left Behind” and Race To The Top” eras, the attitude was, and is, to narrow the focus during elementary school to language arts and math, and when students get to middle/junior high school “we’ll catch them up” in science, social studies, art and more (yeah, that’s worked well). AND to introduce students to STEM and “making” and other subjects as late as 7th grade … that’s when gender based biases, because students haven’t become interested before those impressionable, difficult years, become an issue. 7th grade is TOO LATE for students to be just finally introduced to those subjects, pedagogies and experiences.

So again, I’m not saying this one “intervention” would entirely solve the girls/women in STEM careers issue by itself, but I suspect it might be a pretty important piece of it.

What are your thoughts?

Learning is messy!

 

A Learning Is Messy Idea Gone Awry?

Looking for ideas here ... any thoughts?

Awhile back on a visit to Boston … specifically at the awesome Museum of Science in Boston to be part of a training on their Engineering Is Elementary curriculum …  I spotted this cool looking paper airplane launcher in the museum store. I’ve seen it for sale in other places since then as well.

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I immediately envisioned a powerful hands-on STEM inquiry lesson. Students fold paper airplanes and launch them with this launcher. While doing so they can make adjustments to the design with the goal of the longest flight, or perhaps adjust the angle of launch and through multiple trials ascertain the “best” angle of launch to attain the longest flight … lots of possibilities.

So I gladly bought one and brought it back to Reno. It still sits on a shelf above my desk reminding me of the possibilities it seems to promise. I even had specific classrooms in mind to help develop lessons around it (I’m always on the lookout for inquiry pieces).

So why haven’t I posted here about the great lessons students and teachers have experienced?

Soon after I got back from my trip to Boston I started folding planes (I’ve done this a lot from the time I was a kid … and have experience with paper airplanes in my own classroom over many years as well). I installed batteries in the launcher and started launching! This was going to be my newest great inquiry lesson to develop and I was pumped! Then an issue became apparent. Any thoughts here? What might make this not work as well as I’d hoped? What needs to happen to be able to be able to accumulate data that leads to better design? There are lots of ways to fold planes, and although this launcher requires that fold at the bottom it can “grab” … and that might exclude some designs … there are tons of folds that include that fold it could grab … so no worries there. So what did I find to be the issue?

The issue is …….. it doesn’t throw the planes even “kind of” consistently. To really be of value it would have to be REALLY consistent in how it throws or launches each plane … and students could learn a lot … and it could still be a valuable if it in even threw them fairly consistently … but it doesn’t. It doesn’t throw them in anything even remotely approaching consistency … in my experience. Bummer! I was kinda counting on that … my bad.

Now if I’m missing something here (which I would gladly concede I am) and I’m just doing something “wrong” please let me know. And, actually you could easily use the fact that it “apparently” does not throw the planes in a consistent fashion to teach students about inquiry and the fact that you have to be able to rely on consistent results to gather valuable data … then that turns this into an awesome lesson, right there …  and please feel free to “go there and do that” and share how you got this great idea from me on how to teach students about the importance of collecting completely valid data (you’re welcome). :0)

But otherwise, can you or you and your students see how I can make this a valid inquiry piece? If so … share your idea(s) in the comments here. If not … see my idea above on teaching students about the importance or collecting valid, dependable data. TIA 🙂

Did I mention I paid for the launcher out of my own pocket? I did … and I know that is something that too many people don’t understand that teachers do. So help if you think of how to make this valid inquiry piece! Again, TIA!

Learning is messy!