Thursday August 3, 2006

Spacing Out

Dayton Early College Academy students will participate in NASA testing Aug. 3-12 at Houston's Johnson Space Center.

What would be a routine trip to the emergency room on Earth could result in death or damage to expensive equipment in space.

To help prevent that from happening, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and the Dayton Early College Academy worked on an Ace bandage-looking wound containment device that DECA students will help test now through Aug. 12 at Houston's Johnson Space Center.

Boonshoft was one of only four U.S. museums NASA chose to participate in a program that runs parallel to university-sponsored research. NASA dictates that program participants partner with underserved students to introduce them to the sciences. DECA was looking for student volunteer opportunities at the same time.

Plenty of medical research is conducted in space, but NASA never has adopted procedures for severe trauma, according to Mitch Roth, Boonshoft's physical sciences coordinator.

"The goal is to provide something that's easily packed, doesn't take up much space, is cost-efficient and easy to apply by one person without the benefit of gravity holding down the bandage," Roth said. "The benefit to the rest of us is that it will reduce NASA's training time, costs and taxpayer liability."

The DECA students will run the show on the ground in Houston while their advisors - Roth, two DECA teachers and another Boonshoft staff member - will test the bandage in a weightless environment created by the C-9 "Weightless Wonder." NASA will fly the team to an altitude of 80,000 feet before plummeting into a 25-second free-fall, creating virtual weightlessness. This will happen 60 times in two different sessions.

"I look up and think, one day, my work could be on the shuttle keeping somebody safe," said DECA third-year student Amber Cospy, who hopes to be an anesthesiologist. "It's cool and amazing. I can't believe I was chosen out of all of these (DECA students). It's really going to help me and look good on a college resume."

Roth said NASA will decide whether the group's experiment actually makes it into space, but NASA will have the "information on file when they need it."

"It beats paying NASA researchers to develop it," he added.

Cospy and fellow third-year student Jasmine Cammack said they've learned more than just science, such as how to work as a team, the importance of not letting down the team, not procrastinating and keeping your word.

For more information, contact Shawn Robinson at 937-229-3391. The students and project supervisors will be available for interviews after Aug. 13.