The group will be participating and conducting experiments until July 29 in the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program.
The purpose of the program is to provide participants with the chance to propose, design, build and fly a reduced gravity experiment while aboard the Weightless Wonder, a modified Boeing 727 aircraft.
“We’re going to be flying in a vomit comet,” said Wayne Strickland, science specialist at AMSTI.
The Weightless Wonder creates an anti-gravity environment for about 18 seconds by performing steep climbs followed by free falls. Usually, a pilot does 30 free falls over the Gulf of Mexico.
NASA is providing teachers with an experience in microgravity that they can take back to their classrooms, said Edward Thomas, professor of physics and director of the Plasma Sciences laboratory at Auburn University.
“It gives our teachers a hands-on, real-life experience,” said Jenifer Lovvorn, Auburn City Schools public relation director. “It gives them a better knowledge so that they can better teach their students.”
Members of the Flying Tigers are Edward Thomas from Auburn University, Elizabeth Bass and George Clausell from Dean Road Elementary, Mark Jones from Drake Middle School, Jennifer Spencer from Cary Woods Elementary and Wayne Strickland from AMSTI.
Some of the experiments range from the human circulatory system and testing blood pressure to testing the separation in magnets. Others include the formation of bubbles, the separation of fluids due to their densities, and the change in motion of a parachute.
“Our particular experiments are focused more on mechanical and fluid systems—how they respond on the ground and under microgravity conditions,” Thomas said.
These experiments, he said, are for teachers and students to learn how to abstract a problem. It’s about guessing what will happen when you have a problem that you’re normally used to, and you take that problem to a completely different environment.
“We’re all just excited to be here,” Strickland said. “It’s an incredible opportunity. Not many people get to do it, and we feel very lucky.”
The project is supported by Auburn City Schools, COSAM, the Department of Energy, NASA and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.