“I’m from NASA”

The two students I interviewed for this article sounded very excited about the trip they were going to make to Texas, as they should be. They were one of 18 team proposals chosen out of 400 submissions. I’m excited to hear how their experiment went after they return to Arizona from Texas.

Chandler-area graduates head to NASA

Published in SanTan Sun News June 7, 2014

It was far from your typical call from Texas.

“I’m from NASA,” said the voice on the other line.

But Ruben Adkins, a Chandler High School graduate and current University of Arizona student, heard just that after submitting a proposal for an undergraduate research project on microgravity.

Adkins and five other students from the UofA, many of whom are Chandler Unified School District graduates, traveled to the Johnson Space Center last month to participate in the NASA Student Flight Program.

“I’ve never got a call from NASA (before), so that was pretty neat,” he says.

The program provides college and university students with the opportunity to propose, design, fabricate, fly and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment of their choice.

Adkins says he and Hamilton High School graduate Justin Hacnik formed a team of all juniors at UofA last summer and submitted the proposal to NASA.

The proposal included the inception of their idea, how the team could realistically achieve it, as well as safety information about their project.

Adkins was told that NASA received a lot of applicants this year and they were excited to announce that his team was selected as one of the finalists.

“I called everyone else on the team,” he says.

Eighteen team proposals were chosen out of 400 submissions. In addition to Adkins and Hacnik, Chandler High School graduates Dustin Groff and Kellin Rumsey; Perry High graduate Andrew Jiminez, and Michael McCabe, who attended high school in Texas, also made up the team.

The project is called “Investigations of a Frontal Polymerization for on-board Materials Processing Applications.”

“We developed this research and it is something we are interested in,” Adkins says.

The project will form products in microgravity, meaning the team can investigate the different properties the materials possess with the affect of gravity. It will determine the polymerization process, Adkins says.

In layman’s terms, it’s a good option to produce materials in zero gravity.

“If there is something you need to produce when on a mission, it can actually be done,” Adkins says.

The project will take place in an aluminum box that is heat initiated with two reactants to the test tube.

“It’s a glorified test tube rack,” Hacnik explains.

Under the test tube there is a heat gun that is mounted to a shaft. The experiment will have 30 second reactions.

Adkins says they will test their experiment on the reduced gravity flight in Houston. The team left at the end of May and stayed until June 8.

“Once we are on the plane, (it will be) as simple as turning a crank,” he says.

The flight will have 30, 30 second intervals. Within each of those intervals, microgravity will be experienced.

“Each interval we will be testing each of the polymerization,” Hacnik explains. “We want to make sure we have multiple tests, so we can compare it to our data.”

The team wants to thank the UofA Honors College, the College of Engineering and Dr. Jennifer Barton, interim vice president for research


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