Day 3 at Space Camp

The morning began with the Von Lions eating some scrambled eggs, star-shaped hash browns and juice. The students seemed to enjoy the warm nourishment and chatted lethargically as they woke up.  After breakfast, the Von Lions team headed to the Leo classroom and learned about the Environment Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) on the International Space Station. The ECLSS controls atmospheric pressure within the ISS to detect fire, suppress a fire if it occurs, to balance oxygen levels and to control waste management and water supply. The atmosphere of ISS if of the utmost importance, but the ECLSS also collects, processes and store water and waste produced by the astronauts. The ECLSS also removes methane from humans’ metabolic processes and, via activated charcoal filters, removes ammonia from the astronauts’ sweat. The Von Lions divided into teams and began brainstorming about how they could build the most effective water filtration system. The students had to utilize a coffee filter, set inside a funnel, then use various materials (noodles, rocks, pebbles, ammonia chips and activated charcoal) each team received 5 scoops of any of those materials, or a mixture of them to build their filter.



Aaron and Ronnald got their space suits on and waited patiently for their Alpha mission to begin!

20140430-122525.jpgRonnald was one of the most hard-working Extravehicular Activity specialists that NASA has ever seen. He calculated the proper angles and communicated wonderfully with Mission Specialist 1 and 2. Meseret and Ari, after getting their ice vests on for thermoregulation, and donning their space boots, helmets and puffy white suits, they climbed through the airlock and confronted the issues on the exterior of their shuttle.



Aaron and his partner worked hard on an exothermic (heat-releasing) experiment and created a foam that became hot and solidified, shortly after being catalyzed.
20140430-122604.jpgAfter their Alpha Mission (which went smoothly and all objectives were achieved!) the Von Lions team quickly went to a nearby auditorium for a special guest. The guest, Steve Forey is a very inspiring, Deaf RIT graduate who found his way through working with robotics. Now, as an engineer, Steve creates drones similar to how the Google Maps camera functions, utilizing global positioning satellites (GPS) to move throughout the world taking photographs while also providing a point of view perspective. His drone, though, functions like a helicopter and is autonomous when it’s outside and can receive a satellite signal (much like your phone).

20140430-201528.jpgAfter Miss Baker and Able were discussed yesterday, Aaron and Meseret’s interest was piqued and they had the honor of visiting Miss Baker’s grave, after she passed away on November 29, 1984 at a Auburn University veterinarian clinic due to kidney failure. She is buried at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center.



20140430-201614.jpgAfter the engineer brought brilliant ideas and hopeful mindsets for the future to the astronauts, they proceeded to the Aviation Challenge grounds of Space Camp to learn how to fly an F18 flight simulator. The Von Lions counselor described the procedures for takeoff and landing in great detail, and then the Von Lions had their chance to fly!


Dinner was delicious and all of the Von Lions were hungry from their hard work at Aviation Challenge, so they eagerly devoured their dinner and headed briefly to the Space Camp gift shop to find sweet treats and surprises for their families at home.

The Von Lions closed out their evening with another session at Aviation Challenge, learning how to use their onscreen radar to identify friendly and enemy planes, identify various targets to bomb, land at or fly by, and how to establish flying formations with their teammates. All of the Von Lions then challenged the Jolly Goddards (another Space & Aviation Challenge hybrid team) to dog fight, so the planes took to the air, engaged in barrel rolls, escape maneuvers and full throttle techniques and chased each other in aerial warfare.

Another successful day for the Von Lions team, they are excited for tomorrow, when they will complete their second and third mission, as well as use their learned patrolling skills to protect their army base from invasion tomorrow night!


Day 2 at Space Camp

After yet another tornado warning and siren sent them to the basement of the habitat (the dorm where the astronauts sleep) the Utahn astronauts awoke this morning ready and eager to eat some breakfast and begin their day.Once breakfast was finished, the astronauts were bussed off to Area 51 were they would experience a 32 ft. telephone which they would scale, then leap off of, with hopes of touching a nearby dangling rope. This creation is affectionately known as the Pamper Pole (potentially because it’s fear-inducing qualities may cause you to need a diaper?) and at 32 ft, beaming in the Alabama sun, it intimidated some of the Von Lions when they first arrived.


















20140429-131144.jpgFor the Charlie (third) mission, new positions were given and the Utahn astronauts were placed in their new roles. Aaron was named the Guidance Navigation and Control specialist (GNC) in Mission Control, Walker was named Flight Dynamics Officer (FDO), Meseret was placed in the International Space Station to do some science experiments and  and Ronnald was deemed the Flight Director for the mission! Aaron had to learn how to read weather patterns, determine velocity of a rocket and to measure altitude while the rocket works through its mission.







Meseret is learning how to communicate with Mission Control via the monitors in ISS. Likewise, astronauts relay the results of their experiments to Mission Control while they work through their procedures. Currently, some of the most exciting results that NASA is obtaining every day are those relating to 3-D printing in Space! While Meseret won’t be printing any materials to fix the ISS, she will mix chemicals and figure out how reactions may occur in space.

Walker, as the Flight Dynamics Officer had the difficult job of measuring the usage of fuel during the flight. Same as in an airplane, as gas/fuel is burned off, the weight of the rocket changes, which affects lift, drag, thrust and gravity (the 4 forces of flight). Walker had to persevere and do a lot of calculating to keep the rocket smoothly obtaining and keeping its proper trajectory.







Have you ever heard or read that monkeys went into space?!?! Yes, they have! On May 28, 1959 at 2:39am, Miss Baker (a squirrel monkey purchased from a pet store in Miami) and Able (a Rhesus monkey) went into space and spent 16 minutes (9 of which were weightless!) and flew to an altitude of 300 miles! They were not alone either, Miss Baker and Able were accompanied by fungus spores, human blood, e.coli, onion, mustard and corn seeds, the pupae of fruit flies, yeast and even sperm and eggs from a sear urchin! Their launch sent them from the launch pad in Cape Canaveral in Florida (known as Cape Kennedy from 1963-1973) and totaled 1500 miles which landed them in the ocean near Puerto Rico. Interestingly, many animals of various species preceded Miss Baker and Able in flight, but the monkeys’ resemblance to humans (especially at the genetic level) signified a just development in the space programs throughout the world. Another famous mammal to experience a rocket launch was Laika, a mutt dog found wandering the streets of Moscow, Russia! Laika was launched on November 3, 1957 (in attempt to “beat” the American space program’s development) in the Sputnik 2. Laika’s ascent into space (and Russian history) was earmarked though because 6 days into the mission, all electrical systems and operating systems failed and Laika died. There are rumors that Laika’s 4th day’s worth of food was poisoned so that Laika didn’t experience the system failure, but there is no certain record of it. Also, even if Laika and the Sputnik 2 had continued with their mission to orbit the earth every 1 hour and 42 minutes, ultimately the mission would’ve failed because in the rush to create an adequate shuttle resulted in completely failing to prepare Laika and the Sputnik 2 for re-entry!



These pictures show Miss Baker and Able’s rise to fame, also documented in this news report.

Following their time with Miss Baker and Able, the Utahn astronauts learned how to separate oxygen and hydrogen in water via a process called electrolysis! After attaching aluminum foil (a conductor) to a tongue depressor, they put the strips of aluminum foil into their cup of salt water (and made sure that they weren’t touching because that would short out the battery they were about to attach!) and then using alligator clips, clipped the positive and negative ends of a battery to the aluminum foil. Because salt water is conductive, the electric current moved through the water and essentially the aluminum foil became a positive and negative terminal. The water bubbled and fizzed and the side which collected oxygen amassed bubbles on its surface.


20140429-141704.jpgAfter approximately 20 minutes of bubbling and fizzing, the students removed the battery attachments and in their stead, clipped a multimeter to the aluminum foil. They then measured the electrical power that they had accrued in the water. As the water’s bonds “snap” back together, energy is created and can provide various amounts of electrical power for a laptop, fan or your iPhone!


20140429-144043.jpgFollowing a hearty dinner to replenish their minds and bodies, the astronauts prepared for one of the most sought after, looked-forward to activities of Space Camp week – SCUBA! After an introduction on Sunday night, the Von Lions sat down for another briefing on scuba diving safety, hand symbols and the manual signs that they would use to communicate underwater. The Von Lions did an amazing job of paying attention and seemed mentally prepared, so that next obvious step was to hit the water! Approximately 15 minutes into the skills teaching, there was a phone call and a weather station reported a lightning flash within the mileage radius warranting the astronauts left the water. The Von Lions were patient while the lightning passed, and started a lecture on patrolling to prepare for their Escape and Evasion mission tomorrow night. When the lightning successfully left the area, the Von Lions were eager to get back in the water. The happy report for the Von Lions is that most of them learned the skills to go to the bottom of the 25 foot tank! The students learned to recover their regulator if it was knocked loose, to replace their mask if it was knocked or bumped, and to clear their mask if it had some water in it.





20140430-152246.jpgWhen the students mastered the skills, they utilized those skills immediately by slowly lowering themselves to the bottom of the tank – then it was time to play! Ronnald stayed on the training platform at approximately 4 feet depth, and looked around while breathing underwater, and Aaron, Meseret and Walker made it to the bottom! They had a blast playing underwater basketball with a bowling ball!







Day 1 at Space Camp

All of the Utahn astronauts awoke this morning with a pep in their step and were ready for action! After breakfast, all of the Von Lions team walked through the main building and Aaron’s attention was snagged by a tank containing a gecko. After a few moments of searching, Aaron’s curiosity was satiated by finding the gecko.


David’s morning started as he filled the role of Guidance Navigation and Control specialist in Mission Control for the staff’s mission. Using the screen’s information, can you find the altitude, current velocity and how much time is remaining until the next “burn” on the engines? These questions, and many more (whew, lots of papers, files and folders to sift through!) were answered to provide a safe, smooth and successful mission for the various Deaf educators/staff at Space Camp this week!










For the Von Lions’ alpha (first) mission, Ronnald is the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) specialist. His role in the mission is to communicate with the 2 mission specialists as they survey, tweak and fix the exterior of the shuttle and various satellites. Ronnald did a great job learning all of the communication abbreviations and how to communicate with the mission specialists as they work through each situation that arises during the mission.



During the Alpha mission, Aaron’s position is Mission Scientist in the International Space Station (ISS). He learned about the different panels within the satellite, how the nodes connect the satellite (and are the thickest portion of the satellite) and how he’ll conduct experiments in his ISS during the mission!

Did you know? In the International Space Station, astronauts have 2.5 hours of required exercise everyday?!

Also while in the ISS, Aaron learned about experiments in space. Typically, astronauts spend 6 months at the ISS, but NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (also called “Roscosmos”) are currently preparing an astronaut (NASA) and a cosmonaut (Russian Federal Space Agency) to spend a full year in space! Because of the lack of gravity, cells are perfectly round, rather than oval/oblong like on earth (due to gravity). Due to this property, astronauts can see cells much more clearly and NASA scientists are hopeful that the work these astronauts are doing with cancer cells, plants and animal cells and even viruses, will lead to innovative and effective successes!



For the Alpha mission, Walker and Meseret got placed in positions that they’ll get to do some serious teamwork. As Mission Specialist 1 & 2, Walker and Meseret will work on the exterior of the shuttle, fix the satellite and communicate their results back to Mission Control, all while “floating” in space!

After their quick debriefing, Walker got positioned in the shuttle’s arm, to move to the correct position and repair a broken instrument on the satellite. This arm, at Space Camp, is a 37 feet steel beam controlled by a powerful hydraulic system, whereas on a NASA shuttle, the arm is graphite and is 50 feet long. The NASA ARM (funded by Canada and aptly named the Canada Arm) is graphite and within earth’s gravity, it wouldn’t be able to support it’s own weight. In space, the Canada arm can support itself, as well as machinery, and an astronaut’s weight! A NASA’s shuttle controls the arm using an elaborate electrical system (instead of hydraulics) because of the unknown dynamics of fluids in space.








After Walker completed his work on the satellite, he reported his results, via Meseret, to Mission Control. Walker was given the a-ok to finish his portion of their Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and it was then Meseret’s turn to jump into the action. Meseret’s duty was to repair a broken light on the exterior of the shuttle. Meseret relayed her results to Mission Control via Walker and they then returned to the cockpit of the orbiter and joined the rest of their crew. David safely watched and photographed from a nearby shuttle.










After a delicious lunch, the rain caused the Area 51 exercises to be moved indoor. The Von Lions rose to the challenge and after introducing themselves to the leader of their activity, they divided into 2 teams. Meseret, Ronnald and Walker ended up on one team and Aaron was on the other, but BOTH teams did amazingly well with the challenges with which they were presented.

Meseret, Ronnald and Walker’s team was given the task to cross a “toxic pit”, using only each other, a few cinder blocks and planks of wood. After a short brainstorming session, they devised a plan to overcome the toxic hurdle and began carrying out their plan. Meseret took the lead, was the first to enter the toxic area and did a great job laying the planks for her teams to cross, while also providing advice on future complications and how certain boards were warped and that her teammates should be careful while crossing them. Part way through their effort, two students lost their balance and stepped into the “toxic pit”, rendering their legs “useless” (the two legs were then tied together) and they had to continue the remainder of the activity as a 3-legged team player.











Aaron’s team for Area 51 also sailed through their challenge, aptly named “Toxic Dump” in which they must dump the “toxic” balls into a bucket, only after carefully picking them up, moving them and aligning them with the proper “dump” receptacle. Aaron took on the brave role of monitoring the balls closely, providing support via communication and his tactile prowess in handling the buckets which carried the “toxic” balls.

20140428-125347.jpgBoth teams were successful and afterwards discussed the importance of communication, positivity and support in not only these “low ropes” activities, but in their missions while at Space Camp, and in life.


Wow, it’s already time for training for a Bravo (second) mission?! For the Bravo mission, new roles were assigned and the Utahn astronauts again got some great positions!

Walker – Science Communication Specialist – He’ll talk to the International Space Station and check on their experiments.

Aaron– Mission Specialist 1 – He’ll be in the arm on the exterior of shuttle and will work to repair an instrument bay.

Meseret– Electric Generation Illumination and Lighting Specialist – She’ll be focused on the electronics of the shuttle from launch to landing.

Ronnald – Mission Scientist – He’ll work in the ISS examining various aspects of the affect of zero gravity on humans, plants and chemicals.




Aaron received his summary of duties, with the project he’d be working on hanging above his head.







When the NASA worker explained that he’d be in the arm of the shuttle and that HE would be the one controlling it, he was elated!


The arm, in eager anticipation of Aaron.                                            Aaron’s priceless face when the control was turned over to him.

20140428-140438.jpg                 20140428-140456.jpg









20140428-140512.jpgAfter the Bravo mission training was finished, it was time for a quick group photo before an introduction to land survival. As you can see, the Von Lions have a few characters within the group.

20140428-224717.jpgDuring land survival training, the astronauts essentially shift roles into the life of a fighter pilot. As a hybrid program this year, the Deaf students will not only engage in rocket-centric, lunar modules and ablative shielding activities, they’ll also learn how to track another plane, locate a landing strip, or survive a crash in enemy territory, with a strong survival mindset.


Speaking of mental toughness, the tenacity, patience and maturity that the Von Lions tackled the next challenge thrown at them (Huntsville’s tornados) was impressive. During dinner, the tornado alarm sounded and a tornado warning went into effect. We all moved to the safety shelter and patiently waited for about 30 minutes for the “all clear” announcement to be made. Then the astronauts returned to dinner to attempt to finish their meals when the alarm again disrupted their eating time. After moving again to the safe area, the astronauts, their teammates and other teams’ members huddled for over an hour, all patiently waiting, while the rain fell, the winds whipped, and the sky’s kaleidoscope of dark hues made many adults nervous and toppled trees in neighboring cities. There’s no doubt that the Von Lions trumped the storm and it was truly impressive to see them create games, engage in conversation, or doodle while the storm roared through.

20140428-224733.jpgAs a final impressive feat for the day, the Von Lions rallied their energy reserves and constructed rockets after the volley of tornado warnings. While definitely enjoying their time, the medium-sized rockets that they built were well constructed and required a lot of precise building, especially difficult after a long day!




20140428-224929.jpgDay #1 at Space Camp has ended, but the astronauts are eager to again greet the sun and begin new roles, new lessons and apply the knowledge that they’ve so masterfully developed throughout their years, to achieve “impossible” things tomorrow.

Departing for Space Camp!

The students have been working hard for months now, prepping themselves with space, aviation and NASA-related vocabulary, coupled with science, math and engineering-heavy concepts to be sure they’re ready for their week in Huntsville, AL at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The time has finally come and we’re all anxious to board our plane to Atlanta, then another to Huntsville, to begin our adventure.


Via in-flight wifi, this picture from 35,000 ft was possible.


In addition to enjoying and perusing the touch screen TVs, the students are napping, asking 478422 questions about planes soaring through the troposphere and taking pictures out the window.

First time on an airport subway for these astronauts!


Although it’s been rainy since we’ve arrived, the students loved meeting the Deaf kids from other states (Oregon, West Virginia, New York, Maryland, Washington DC, Iowa and Louisiana are here!). Tonight, they got to know each other by learning about early space exploration and prepping for scuba diving (which will be tomorrow, if the weather cooperates). All of the Utah astronauts were selected for team Von Lions. Von Lions was a pilot group that did incredible work during the Vietnam war.

Pulleys in Action

Pulleys are an excellent example of how our work efforts can be increased. We’ve learned that the 6 common simple machines are the pulley, lever, wheel and axle, screw, inclined plane and a wedge. Through the generous help of a Skyline PTSA grant (HUGE thanks to Skyline’s PTSA!), we had Christian, a local engineer in Salt Lake City, propose the problem of how to get our teacher up to the rim of a basketball hoop and dunk a ball, using the 7th graders’ minds and muscles. We considered time, money, science and safety to make our decisions and to create a plan. We learned that each pulley increased our effort, or provided more mechanical advantage. With one pulley, the force we used to lift our teacher wasn’t increased, but it changed the direction of our force. To lift our teacher, we’d need to lift up, but now we could pull down. Because our teacher weighs 215 lbs., we couldn’t lift him. When we set up a two pulley system, our teacher’s weight was divided in half (divided by 2) but only Christian could lift him because we don’t weigh more than 107.5 lbs. so even if we jumped into the air to lift our teacher, we couldn’t produce enough force. With 3 fixed pulleys we started to have success and our teacher’s weight was now divided by 3 and we only needed to pull with 71.7 lbs. pounds of force. Success!

photo 2

We had fun using the concept and dividing our weight by 2 and 3, to see how much force our classmates needed to use to lift us!


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The 8th grade Physical Science class added to the concepts of learning by figuring out the force distance tradeoff. Simple machines don’t do work, they just make work easier, or more efficient, for us. To lift a load a certain distance, that distance must be multiplied by the number of pulleys and moved by whatever force is lifting the load. For example, if we lift our 215 lb. teacher 4.25 feet to the rim of an official NBA basketball hoop (keeping in mind that he’s 6 feet tall and where the harness connects to the pulleys is 9 inches from his head) using a 3 pulley system;

distance to move the load  x   # of pulleys = distance whatever is applying the force must move

4.25 ft.          x       3       = 12.75 ft. the puller must move in order to lift our teacher 4.25 ft.


Even our teacher’s wife joined in on the fun! 20140427-162903.jpg



Jarrod weighs 250 lbs. and would like to be lifted by a pulley system into the back of a pickup truck. If the top of the tailgate is 48 inches high;

1. How much force is needed to lift Jarrod with a 3 pulley system?

2. If a 4 pulley system is set up, how far would the person pulling the rope have to move?


A cubic foot of coal weighs 84 lbs. If this load of coal needs to be lifted into a truck at a height of 5 feet,

3. How much force is needed to lift the coal with a 3 pulley system?

4. If a 4 pulley system is set up, how far would the person pulling the rope have to move?