The Team Ready for Day 1 of Flight

The entire team before the first flight. Day 1 fliers include Roxanne, Carl and our NASA mentor, Dr. Leimkuhler.

We killed the Technical Readiness Review

Despite some hiccups in our apparatus, the Technical Readiness Review (TRR) went extremely well.

Sensirion Flow Sensors Arrived!

Sensirion donated two flow sensor kits to help monitor the changes in flow rate of the CSF media mockup.

Professional Development Outreach

As a part of the team's education outreach, we put on a professional development workshop for local teachers at Spalding Elementary School.

Proposal Officially Sent!

The team's inital months of hard work culminated in this final document which was submitted to NASA for review.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sleeping Blog

It has been a week since our first group of flyers flew in Houston! Time sure flies! I thought I would post something kind of silly today just for fun. This blog post had been joked about all trip. We got so little sleep before the trip and during our time in Houston, that we started to get our zzzz where ever we could! Then we started documenting our odd sleeping behavior and every time a photo was taken of someone sleepiwe joked that it would show up on the sleeping blog. So without further ado...
On the plane on the way to Houston.
On the way to dinner with the Reduced Gravity staff and other flyers.
On the plane headed home from Houston.

This was taken right after she woke up

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Experience: Libby Stewart

My team mates have been writing their reflection posts about their flying experiences, but since I chose not to fly, I am going to write my reflection about my trip to Houston as a whole. This has truly been an unforgettable week! The first three days could be described as hard work with no sleep and high stress. Overcoming the challenges and struggles faced at the beginning of the week made the success at the end of the week even sweeter. I am so grateful to the RGO staff, our NASA mentor Tom, and anyone and everyone involved to make flight week happen. The people at Ellington Field, JSC, and NASA in general really did make the Boise State University Microgravity Research Team's dreams come true. I can't thank you enough!

I went to Houston hoping our experiment would work and thinking that I might learn a few things about NASA. Well let me tell you folks, I am returning home with much, much more. I have gained four great new friends and I have a deeper respect and gratitude for my advisors. I just want to take a minute to thank my team members for making this trip such a great experience for me:


You are the best team lead ever! Thank you for always giving 110% and never giving up. You handled the stresses of this experience very well and I am so proud of how you have grown as a leader. It was great to have another girl on the trip and I loved laughing with you about silly things the boys did. Congratulations Roxanne! We did it :)


Thank you for not giving up or quitting on the team! You stuck with us and were a crucial member in so many ways. You are so patient and kind when I asked you questions and I really appreciate it. You sacrificed and went out of your comfort zone on this trip and I am really proud of you. I am sorry I missed pronounced your name before! I think I got it now ;)


So much of your time and energy went in to designing and building this apparatus, I hope you are as proud of it as I am. Your skills were vital to the success of this project. You are very reliable, and we could always count on you being there for the team. It was great getting to know you this week and I just want to thank you for all your hard work and dedication.


Thank you for making me laugh! I don't think I have ever laughed so much, in a seven day span, in my entire life. You bring such a positive energy to the team. It was an important factor in our ability to overcome all our setbacks. You may not be the fastest door maker, but you are the best! Thank you for being you and making this experience so memorable.


Thank you doesn't even come close to describing how thankful and grateful I am that you are a member of this team. Nor does it begin to express my gratitude and appreciation for all your hard work spent on our project. You are the glue that kept us together. You were our supportive mentor and coach.  I hope you gained as much out of this experience as I did!

Dr. Barney Smith,

Thank you for believing in us and giving us the opportunity to come to Houston to have this experience. Thank you for being patient with us and for being understanding. Thank you for never leaving our side or turning your back on us. I appreciate you and all you have done for the team. We could never have done this without you!

I correctly predicted that I would learned some NASA facts and trivia, but more importantly I learned and witnessed NASA's mission in action. Even if our experiment doesn't produce the data we expected it is still useful. The life lessons this experiment has taught me are more valuable than any pressure sensor reading. I would never trade this experience for anything.

Leaving for Boise, Idaho

In the morning, we packed everything up into suitcases and cardboard boxes and did our best to remain in the 50 lb weight limit for each piece of luggage. When we got to the airport, we found out our flight was delayed. Once we made it to Phoenix, we discovered our connecting flight to Boise was also delayed.

During the delays and on the plane, we got to continue to bond as a team, reflect on our experiences from earlier in the week, and became NASA ambassadors as we shared our experiences with others in the airport. 

We arrived in Boise after 1:30am and had all the luggage dropped off at the High Bay by 2:30am. We decided we would save the unpacking for a different day.
On our way back to Boise!

The team now has eight weeks to analyze our data and create a final report. We will also be making a video from our experiences during flight week and a video for Ms. Jarvis's at Mt. View elementary school. Look forward to these videos in future posts.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Flight Week: Day 5

Carl taking a picture of Janos taking a picture
Today was the official last day of flight week. The teams all met up one final time to look at the T-38 airplanes in  Hanger 276.  Astronauts learn to fly and train in these airplanes.

Then we caravanned to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. This is a pool that contains 1:1 replica parts of the International Space Station.  This is where astronauts train in their 400 lb. space suits for actual procedures they will perform in space.

Scott's future parking spot at the NBL

After we said goodbye to the other teams, the BSU team went to Space Center Houston for an afternoon of fun!

 Everyone tried the Freefall to Mars exhibit (some of us were more successful then others!)

Carl and Scott even had a chance to share their experiences about Microgravity with a group of summer camp children. 

We all went on a tram tour of JSC that stopped at the Vehicle Mock-up Facility. This building houses NASA technology and replications of many of the vehicles that have been to space. Jill and Roxanne also toured the old mission control room. We all went to Rocket Park and witnessed the enormous Saturn V.

After spending the whole afternoon at the Johnson Space Center, we decided to grab a bite to eat at a local Mexican restaurant. Since it was a Friday evening, they had a singer performing. The whole team, especially Libby and Carl, helped the entertainer out by singing along.

Libby screamed so loudly on this ride!
Roxanne, Scott, and Carl went on this ride multiple times
Awesome Firework show with great music!
We then went to Kemah Boardwalk for a night of roller coasters and fireworks!
 What a perfect way to end a fantastic week!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Experience: Jill Hettinger

I am a doctoral student in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction, with a focus on STEM leadership. I became a graduate student advisor for the MicroGravity Team in the fall of 2013. My main role was to advise the students on their outreach experiences. My role in advising the team in their outreach gained me a position as part of the ground crew while in Houston, and I was grateful for the invitation. I had no ambitions of flying in MicroG, because quite honestly the thought of flying in parabolas was less than appealing!  As the year progressed my role as the educational outreach advisor morphed into an integral advisor for the entire experience when the team began running into difficulties with their “brain” and “cranium”. The more I worked with this team in Boise, the more I became determined that I wanted to see them achieve their goal of flying their experiment in Houston. As these students were pushed they became more and more determined and persistent that “failure was not an option”, they were going to do whatever they had to do to reach the finish line. The team met challenges left and right as they got closer and closer to the approaching deadline, they went through plan A and plan B for their permanent brain material, plan A and plan B for their temporary brain material, and through plan A, B, C, and D for material to seal the 3D printed cranium. They even had begun working on a plan B for the entire cranium structure. 

These STEM students’ leadership skills and problem solving skills grew tremendously through the process, they will be entering their career fields with a significant amount of experience that any employer would be impressed with. I have been grateful to be not only a witness to this growth, but also to have been an integral part in pushing and supporting them towards this growth. The Microgravity University experience became bigger than doing research in MicroG for all of us.  

The surprise for me was an invitation by the NASA staff to fly with the undergraduate students. Despite my previous reluctance in flying in MicroG, I accepted the position. After going through the entire experience with the students, I now wanted to finish with them. I got to fly with Scott and Janos, and Boise State Alumni and NASA engineer - Malory Yates. 

The 32 parabolas went by quickly, and unlike I originally imaged, you have no concept of the planes trajectory as you are flying – so the flight is not scary at all! My body responded pretty quickly to each change. My legs moved toward the ceiling as soon as we hit MicroG each time, and then my entire body moved toward the floor pretty quickly when we switched to HyperG each time. I began to control my body’s movements in MicroG by pushing myself against the wall as I entered MicroG – this allowed my body to slide up the wall, and my legs didn’t float to the ceiling! I then was able to move toward the research apparatus in a more controlled manner. 

Each of the pressure sensors in the mock cranium responded to the changes in gravity and we saw changes in flow of the “cerebral spinal fluid”. The responses to the changes became so predictable that we were able to change our focus at the end of the flight toward our outreach materials. I held the Mini Microgravity Outreach Tube while Scott filmed the effects of MicorG on the “rover” capsule inside the tube for Mountain View Elementary School.  I accomplished an unexpected summersault in the air, from the force I used to replace the pin back into the tube! The experience was memorable, and I was glad to have share in the teams experience in MicroG.

The entire Microgravity University experience was exceptional.  My only sadness comes from the knowledge that the Microgravity University program has been cut by NASA. This means that the team will not be able to follow this line of research any further. Intracranial hypertension is serious problem for the future space flight and the team has many ideas for what we would do next time, but there will be no next time. This year was the last year that students that will ever be able to experience this exceptional program and as a teacher I feel a great loss. As a nation we have to be willing to invest in our future.  This program got it right; it has high expectations for students and great reward for all involved. The program develops students with persistence, problem solving skills, and leadership.

I am proud of the Boise State University Microgravity Undergraduate Research team. Each one of them is pretty exceptional, and I look forward to seeing where life takes each of them. 

My Experience: Scott Warren

The experience of flying in a zero gravity aircraft is a truly unique experience.

The first parabola of weightlessness felt like nothing I have felt before. Your body just floats up and you have no control over it unless you are holding on to something. After a few parabolas of getting used to it, you finally get control of your movements and tell the true feeling of weightlessness.

The plane exits hyper gravity and you are able to feel your whole body move up just like on a rollercoaster, but for a more extended time and not strapped in. You are now able to move your body in ways that you didn't think were possible. You can float in any orientation possible. The period of Microgravity doesn't last long until the next phase of hyper gravity begins. This stage of the flight feels like everything is forcing you down and that you are weaker and objects are heavier.

Both Microgravity and hyper gravity are very unique experiences that rarely anyone gets to experience. This flight has given me a new outlook on how the world looks and functions and I will always remember this amazing once in a lifetime experience. (Pictures coming soon!)

My Experience: Janos Cserna

Leading up to the flight, I had my own reservations about what was going to happen.  After the previous days flight, we had already learned that while our system did leak, it was not an unmanageable leak, and we could still collect relevant data. Now all that was left for me to worry about was my own reaction to both the drugs and fluctuations in gravity.

As it turns out, I was right to be worried.  For the first 8 or so parabolas, the experience was amazing! The feeling of being able to be horizontal, and float everywhere with a very small push from a fingertip was the best.  After those 8 parabolas, my stomach very quickly voiced its protest, and I spent the remainder of the flight sitting out due to illness.

While my flight experience was not the best, I would still do it again.  After speaking to the staff of the RGO, they mentioned that they would have liked to take me again as it is likely that my body can adapt to the sensation so that I could properly enjoy the flight.

As a final note, even without flying, the entire experience of meeting the different school teams, and understanding their experiments was well worth every bit of work that was put into the project. (Pictures coming soon!)

Flight Week: Day 4-Flight Day 2

Mallory showing off her Boise State shirt under her flight suit
After yesterday's successful flight the team was looking forward to another great day of experimenting in the "Weightless Wonder." It was Jill, Janos, and Scott's turn to experience what Carl, Roxanne, and Tom had enjoyed the previous day. There was a bit of a delay in the morning, so the flight took off 45 minutes behind schedule. Time went by quickly and our flyers were back at Ellington Field before the ground crew had time to miss them. Look for Scott, Janos, and Jill's experiences from their flight on later blog posts.

Jill wasn't looking at the camera...
...but here she was giving us a big wave!
Ground Crew Flight Day 2

Tom with a message for his wife
After the team removed the apparatus from the plane and packed it into the car we turned in our badges and said our goodbyes to our NASA Mentor. He was so supportive through out this process and we are truly grateful for all he has done for the team. Thank you Tom!!
Go Astros!
The team came back to the hotel and took a dip in the pool before we began disassembling the apparatus. The RGO bought all the flight week participants tickets to the Houston Astros game against the Arizona Dimondbacks. Astros won in overtime 5-4!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Experince: Carl Barcroft

Carl, Monkey, and Bat checking on the experiment

My experience was amazing, although at the beginning I didn't think it would be. We had some issues with our brain cavity leaking and I was initially worried that I would be spending the entire flight trying to mitigate this problem. However, it turned out that while our experiment leaked slightly, the precautionary measures that we took with installing hazmat absorption pads worked as intended and provided a worry free environment. I really enjoyed looking at the data we were collecting during the transitions to microgravity. The real-time graphs showed that our experiment was not only working, but also collecting useful data that will contribute to a great final report.

The feeling of microgravity is awesome and comparable to skydiving, but unlike skydiving you don't have high speed wind ripping across your body and face. I hated the idea of taking the scopolamine before the flight. I'm not into taking drugs that aren't absolutely necessary. The drug initially made me dizzy, unable to focus, and drowsy but once we started the parabolas in the airplane, I felt great. While I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten sick without the drug, I'm glad I came out of the experience without the wooziness that you typically get from a day of riding rides at the fair. The flight was awesome and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would recommend this experience to anyone who has the opportunity.

My Experience: Roxanne Stone


Before Flight Expectations

Today is Wednesday, June 11th.

My morning started with a team lead meeting at 7:45am like it has all flight week. Except today it was different, it not only started with the Geico "Hump Day" commercial, but at the end the director of the Reduced Gravity Office said "it's also flight day."

After every engineering challenge, not only in Houston, but throughout the last year I just feel pure excitement to have finished our experiment and have this opportunity.

 As Cady Coleman said this morning -- "What can go wrong, always does and will" and after feeling like it all went wrong, our Experimental Apparatus is loaded on the plane and ready to collect real data. 

I'm so excited to be able to test our experiment and experience zero gravity that words cannot truly describe my feelings.


Post Flight Reflection

WOW -- What an amazing hump day!

With each parabola (or hump in today's case) my body changed with the gravitational changes. 

As the engines of the plane roared and the plane climbed to the top of the parabola, gravity increased and my body was pulled down by such a strong force I couldn't move any part of my body. The only thing to compare it to is the Graviton Ride at the fair. 

Then the engines would become quiet as the plane nosed down the parabola and my body would release from the floor of the aircraft. The feeling of floating and having the ability to fly or sore through the air is amazing. Every little movement of my body created a force stronger then the gravitational force I was surrounded by. I have nothing to compare this feeling to, it was truly amazing and a one of a kind experience. 

On top of the great experience, our experiment collected good data!!!

Thank you RGO, Dr. Leimkuehler, and Dr. Barney Smith for never giving up on this team and project!! This is a great program and learning experience for undergraduates and I will carry these lessons and memories with me forever.