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Space Institute Holds Mini-Courses for 44 Central High School Students

The University of Tennessee Space Institute recently hosted two days of mini-courses on subjects ranging from math and computers to rockets and space for 44 Coffee County Central High School students.

“UTSI has a strong desire to contribute to the science and engineering education of local students,” said William Hofmeister, research professor and director of the Institute’s Center for Laser Applications (CLA).

“The mini-course format was suggested in meetings with Coffee County educators. We hope this format will increase students’ interest in science and also provide a learning opportunity.”

Aerodynamics, optics, lasers, plasma, and airplanes were among other topics covered in the sessions Dec. 9 and 12 for students whose grades have exempted them from exams. They also toured Arnold Engineering Development Center as part of the enrichment program.

The mini-courses came a few days after UTSI hosted sixth, seventh and eighth-graders from Coffee Middle School for tours, talks, and demonstrations. Carole Thomas, CLA business manager, coordinated scheduling of the program.

CHS Principal Joe Pedigo expressed appreciation for the Institute’s interest in the students and commented on the “positive feedback” he’d gotten from students about the experience.

Two-hour sessions were scheduled on a variety of subjects, and small groups of students rotated through the curriculum. Seven chose to attend a lecture on Dec. 9 at UTSI’s Flight Research Center, conducted by a graduate of the Institute, Canadian Air Force Major Mike Michaud, and U.S. Air Force Major Jason Schott. Both are with the Aerospace Engineering and Test Establishment at Cold Lake, Alberta, and flew in on a Canadian F-18 fighter plane.

Ken Kimble, associate professor of mathematics, and K.C. Reddy, acting dean for academic affairs and a math professor, teamed to give in-depth presentations of math and computers.

In the Center for Laser Applications, Lloyd Davis, UTSI physicist, demonstrated lasers and discussed numerous aspects of light. He noted that 2005 is being observed as the “Year of Physics” in recognition of “three great discoveries by Albert Einstein 100 years ago,” including his theory of relativity that led to the quantum theory. Davis directs UTSI’s research that reads proteins and DNA molecule by molecule.

Ahmad Vakili, professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, led sessions on Aerodynamics and challenged students to study math and physics.

Ying-Ling Chen shared information about optics and biomedical research, Trevor Moeller focused on plasma (a high temperature electrically conductive gas flow) during his presentation. He is leading UTSI’s work to develop a light-weight MHD (magnetohydrodynamics) powered generator to produce super power for futuristic flights.

Presentations on rockets and space exploration were presented by Gary Flandro, who occupies the Institute’s Boling Chair of Excellence in Space Propulsion.

As part of the Institute’s outreach to communities, Hofmeister earlier had coordinated three different visits by 150 students from Coffee County Middle School.
Professor Lloyd Davis leads students in an experiment to measure the speed of light. Watching are, from left, Kyle Loyd,  Seth Thompson, Keith  Roberts, Cody Moore (in front of Harrison Boyd, Lauren Clifford, and Kevin Jones.

Discussing various tools used in mathematical modeling with Ken Kimble, left, and K.C. Reddy, right, are CHS students Amy Henderson, Jordan Kendricks (holding a tensegrity for checking tensile strength and integrity), and Jesse Smith.