UNF students' experiment included on NASA flight

UNF students Kerry Anyanwu, Tam Le, Chelsea Partridge, Nirath Rean, Jimmy Beeler and Erwin DuranNot pictured but part of the teams: Tom Trask, Tom Hudson, and Eric Rutherford (UNF photo)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A University of North Florida student team is one of several from universities across the country selected by NASA to fly their experiments aboard the agency's G Force One aircraft this spring.

"This is just another example of the extremely high quality of the university's engineering programs," said Dr. Mark Tumeo, dean of UNF's School of Computing, Construction and Engineering. "NASA received proposals from across the country…from the top engineering schools in the nation. UNF students and programs compete well with the best."

The NASA experience includes scientific research, experimental design, test operations and outreach activities. It supports NASA's strategic goal of sharing the agency's missions and programs with the public, educators and students to provide opportunities to participate in its mission and foster innovation.

Chelsea Partridge, a UNF junior majoring in mechanical engineering, is leading one of 18 undergraduate student teams from universities around the U.S. selected to test science experiments under microgravity conditions as part of the 2014 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program.

Five teams will fly their experiments aboard the aircraft Friday through Saturday, and 13 teams will fly their experiments May 30 through June 7. The UNF team's experiment  will fly in late May.

"Our diverse backgrounds definitely give us an advantage. We all have varying education, experience and expertise that allow each of us to contribute and make us a stronger team," said Partridge.

"This year, students submitted proposals based on current NASA science and technology priorities. It was wonderful to review the creative responses because they provide tangible benefit to both NASA and the university teams. It's truly a win-win," said Frank Prochaska, manager of the Reduced Gravity Education Program.

The teams are designing and building the experiments at their home campuses and will transport them to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for tests aboard an aircraft modified to mimic a reduced-gravity environment. The UNF team is no exception. It will develop and test a first-generation experiment system in the short-duration, zero-gravity environment to emulate blood flow in the human body.

Such a system could then be further developed in the next generation for use in long-term space biomedical experiments. The aircraft will fly approximately 30 parabolas with roller-coaster-like climbs and dips to produce periods of weightlessness and hyper gravity ranging from zero to two G's.