Young scientists' experiments are out of this world


March 20, 2001|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SPACE SHUTTLE Discovery is scheduled to land tomorrow, and among those anxiously awaiting its return is a group of 19 Crofton Elementary School pupils whose scientific experiments have formed part of the shuttle's mission.

Last spring, Kathy Depman, a fourth-grade teacher at Crofton, worked with the children in a program designed by county public schools' Gifted and Talented Office in conjunction with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

For two months, they explored the qualities of a successful space scientist and, following NASA guidelines, created experiments to test the effects of microgravity on various products that might be used by astronauts in space. Breaking into small groups, the children considered the qualities of rubber bands, shampoo, scented soap and perfume.

After spending time in space, would scents smell the same? Would shampoo still lather up? Would rubber bands still stretch?

They presented the proposals to NASA, and the children were delighted to find that their projects had been approved. In October, they visited a NASA facility at Wallops Island, Va., and working with scientists there, they measured, weighed and packed their experiments into a container to be loaded onto the shuttle.

On launch day, March 8, the children watched their experiments rocket into space -- one group seeing a broadcast of the launch at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, in the company of NASA scientists, and another group in Florida, where they toured Kennedy Space Center and watched the 6:42 a.m. liftoff from a visitors site.

Once Discovery has landed, the pupils will be looking forward to the return of their experiments to the school -- which is expected in about three weeks. Then they can gather postflight data on the materials.

Pupil Bridget Quinn said she chose to experiment with perfume because it was interesting -- something astronauts might want to use -- so it would be good to know if it would be effective in space.

Her group tested the perfume, checking the smell, viscosity and texture. They kept a sample in Crofton to compare to the sample that has orbited in the shuttle to see whether it changed from exposure to microgravity.

Following good scientific method, Bridget has a hypothesis: She thinks the perfume will smell the same and still be useful. But she has to wait a little longer to test her hypothesis and find out for sure.

Citizen of the Year

Tickets are on sale for the Greater Odenton Improvement Association's Citizen of the Year recognition dinner, scheduled for April 14 at Club Meade. Cocktails will be served at 6:30 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m.

The cost is $25. Tickets may be ordered by sending a check payable to Greater Odenton Improvement Association, P.O. Box 141, Odenton 21113.

Crofton retirees' meeting

Crofton Area Retired Persons will meet at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Hall in Crofton. Internist and pediatrician Dr. Paul Rhodes will discuss memory stimulation.

Lunch will be served after the presentation.

Ed Kelly, CARP Lunch Bunch and travel chairman, is arranging an overnight trip May 10-11 to Boiling Springs, Pa., where the group will see "More Smoke on the Mountain" at Allenberry Playhouse. Information: 410-451-0029.

Membership in CARP is open to area retirees 55 and older. Luncheon meetings are held at the parish hall on the third Wednesday each month. Annual dues are $10, and the luncheon fee is $7. Information: Patrick Rubilotta, 410-721-2148.

Tobacco-free kids

Anne Arundel's sixth annual Tobacco-Free Kids Week began yesterday, sponsored by the county Department of Health. Dozens of participating groups are conducting activities to discourage smoking.

At Van Bokkelen Elementary School, Boys and Girls Club members will make anti-tobacco posters. Speakers from Anne Arundel Medical Center will tell children at Waugh Chapel and Four Seasons elementaries about the hazards of tobacco.

Yesterday, West Meade Elementary School had a performance of "2 Smart 2 Smoke" by the National Theater for Children. And Monday, Severn River Middle School pupils will wear red ribbons to show their support for tobacco-free living.

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