After two long years of hard work
and teamwork, a group of students in NJIT's Albert Dorman Honors College gathered at NASA's
Goddard Space Flight Center in Wallops Island, Va., where they launched their creation -- an air-sampling device dubbed
The takeoff, originally scheduled to occur between Aug. 10 and Aug. 14, had been postponed until Aug. 21. The students are now back on campus analyzing the data. Upon launch, the device soared some 17 miles above the earth, triggered by a series of electronic sensors to take samples of air at various altitudes.
"We hope to collect air samples to measure
concentrations of various pollutants in the air at different altitudes,"
said Professor Bruce Bukiet, associate professor of mathematical sciences
and principal investigator for the project.
They were sophomores when they started.
And this group of chemical, mechanical, electronic and computer engineering
majors, who now are seniors, have learned an enormous amount by managing
the $34,220 NASA grant to design and build their device from scratch.
"We have become somewhat of a family--each
doing our own part while looking to each other for support," said Bridget
Ann Hogan, student project leader. We have celebrated together in our successes
and bounced back from the bad times...It has been an honor to work with
this group and I am sure we will all feel a burst of pride and fulfillment
as we watch our baby, MAACS-2, take off this week!
"As student leader of this project I cannot
convey how very rewarding it has been for me and all others involved. The
group has learned so much about group dynamics, dealing with faculty and
even companies in industry. Most of all it has been so exciting for us
to have the opportunity to visit places like NASA Headquarters in Washington
D.C. and Wallops Space Flight Center in Virginia. We have even gotten the
chance to do testing on NASA facilities and speak with experts there about
The project presented numerous challenges.
First, the device had to contain enough sensitive equipment to do the job.
It had to be strong enough to withstand a wide range of temperature and
pressure, since it would be floating into the upper reaches of the atmosphere
before plummeting back toward earth. And because it would ultimately be
launched aboard a helium balloon, it had to weigh no more than 100 pounds.
The students opted to house their device
in an aluminum gondola, which they first tested by dropping off the roof
of the NJIT parking garage.
The students tested their device at both
the NJIT campus and at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, where NASA officials
conducted intense evaluations.
Throughout this process, the NJIT team
earned the respect of NASA scientists. They presented a "cohesive, well-designed and practiced presentation," said Steve Smith, chairman of NASA's mission
readiness review board. "It was obvious that an extensive amount of excellent
work had been accomplished."
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