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High School Students From Tech’s ‘Academy’ Visit UTSI

“Compared to a football field, a nanosecond is a human hair lying on the goal post,” Bill Hofmeister told 30 high school students from Tennessee Technological University President’s Academy for Emerging Technologies.

“Solutions to our energy needs are just outside the Earth’s atmosphere,” Gary Flandro assured them, adding, “You are about to make this (harvesting resources from outer space) happen.”

Peter Sherrouse demonstrated the use of a double pulsed laser system to measure the velocity of air as it flows around a cylinder, and Donald C. Daniel alerted them to the Governor’s plans to open a high school on the University of Tennessee Space Institute’s campus next year for extra sharp science and math students.

Kenneth W. Hunter Sr., associate professor in Tech’s Basic Engineering Program, accompanied the 10th and 11th-grade students to UTSI on July 19 as part of their “university experience.”

The 13-day residential program is designed to stimulate interest in engineering, science, technology, and mathematics, Hunter said. The students were chosen for the program from all parts of the state.

Welcoming the group was Daniel, UT associate vice president and chief operating officer of UTSI, who explained the Institute’s mission as a graduate school and research center.

A “revolution is in the making” that will soon make space tourism available to the masses, Flandro said. Contrary to popular perceptions, the professor insisted that Earth is “not a closed system.” He said a solution to the expected depletion of fossil fuels lies on the moon where there is a plentiful supply of Helium 3, essential for converting thermonuclear energy from the sun.

Flandro, who years ago figured out a way to power a space probe on a tour of the outer planets, urged the students to think in new ways. Citing Burt Rutan’s success in bringing orbital flight capability “within the reach of common man,” Flandro said small industries can do space exploration more efficiently than the government and must become more involved. Rutan, whose space ship won the $10 million Ansari X Prize, insists that “young people must be allowed to participate,” Flandro said.

Hofmeister, director of UTSI’s Center for Laser Applications, showed some of the center’s laser capabilities after first leading a spirited discussion on light, lasers, microscopic measurements of time and substance, and many aspects of nano technology, including the study of proteins.

“Proteins are the ultimate machine,” the research professor said. “That’s why we study them and use lasers to help us understand them.”

Director Jim Goodman, Technical Research Support Group, welcomed the visitors to other research labs for observing water and wind tunnels, hypersonic research and various technical equipment, including a Particle Imaging Velocimeter (PIV) device demonstrated by Sherrouse, who also showed them the “spin lab” where major research is under way on carbon fibers.

Afterwards, the group visited Arnold Engineering Development Center.