Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Booth Teacher Prepares for Weightless Flight on October 7

The community can track Pakulski’s flight at www.flightaware.com. Enter Tail Number for G-Force One: N794AJ.

One teacher is literally going to throw her weight around to get students excited about science.

Tammy Pakulski, seventh grade science teacher at J. C. Booth Middle, has been selected to participate in the Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery Program where she will experience a zero gravity flight. The experience is comparable to what humans would encounter during space travel to the moon or Mars. It also mimics how astronauts train for space flights.

“I’ve always dreamed of being an astronaut and going into space. This flight brings me as close as I can get to that dream,” she says.

Here’s how it works. She will board a 727 aircraft named G-Force One at Hartsfield/Jackson International Airport on October 7. At 24,000 feet altitude, a specially trained pilot will pull the plane up to a 50 degrees ‘nose high’ then push it over the top at 31,500 feet to reach zero-gravity, leaving everyone and everything inside the plane weightless for 25-30 seconds. At a 45 degrees ‘nose low’, a gentle pullout will start allowing the participants to stabilize on the aircraft floor. The maneuver will be completed a total of 15 times giving participants about 6-7 minutes of weightless flight.

Pakulski completed a training workshop in August where she was fitted for her flight suit and given instructions on the commands she will need to know for when the plane comes out of the zero gravity environment.

“You don’t want to be in the middle of a flip when that happens,” she jokes.

She will conduct several of her own experiments during the flight. For one, she will demonstrate the affects of Lunar and Martian gravity on the human body by doing as many pushups as possible.

“It will be videotaped and shared with my students. This will be compared to by ability, or lack of, to do pushups on earth,” she says.

She will also wear a vest that contains probes to measure heart rate and acceleration. Her students will graph and analyze the data the probes collect.

Pakulski will work with a group of other teachers to conduct three formal experiments including testing the affects of zero gravity on the vortex produced inside a tornado tube and Newton’s third law of motion (action-reaction) using various toys such as clackers and slinkies.

The last experiment will demonstrate amazing feats of human strength. The teachers will conduct a teacher toss (tossing one teacher between two others), one-fingered pushups and count the number of somersaults that can be completed in 25 seconds.

Pakulski says she is excited about being able to demonstrate abstract concepts and bring the demonstrations back to her classroom so that students can visualize them, such as the affect of gravity on weight. She also says she hopes her experience will be an inspiration to her students.

“I want to inspire them to follow their dreams, pursue careers in science and technology and that getting an education is important. Education provides you with more opportunities,” she says.

The Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery program is designed to inspire students to pursue science and technical careers by inspiring their teachers first. Practicing classroom middle school teachers and future middle school teachers have the opportunity to participate in the hands-on science workshop.

“I am grateful to Northrop Grumman for providing this program for teachers and inspiring teachers to inspire their students. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I can’t wait for until October 7,” says Pakulski.

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