Week 9 SQP (August 5th - August 11th)

Written By: Quentin Nenon and Mitsuhisa Baba

Monday, August 5th:
All the Academites had to leave their incredible Tahoe housing in the early morning to go to the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada. As not all the folks finished packing the day before (hum hum...), some of them experienced (again) the exciting feeling of having to shower/pack/eat breakfast/find their polo in less than fifteen minutes. After saying goodbye and thank you to the O’Handleys, the Zimmermans and the Neumans (and strongly thinking of coming back), the cadets had a one hour drive to the DRI, during which they enjoyed seeing the strong difference between the landscapes of Tahoe and those of the desert of Nevada.

Upon their arrival, the Academites were welcomed by Dr. Christian Fritsen, did their now all-too-common fifteen-second elevator speeches, and saw a presentation of what the DRI is and is doing. Several scientists of the institute joined them, introduced themselves, and let the students know what was to come on the exciting tours! During the trip around the establishment, the Academites discovered the “CAVE” in which you can experience an incredible immersive and interactive 3D experience. Depending on the virtual reality program that’s running, a person can hike on Mars, extinguish forest fires in California, or explore the human brain. The DRI also conducts a lot of research on life that could exist in ice. The Academites had a tour of the corresponding facilities (a big freezer!) and had never huddled so close each other (experiencing -10 °C temperatures wearing only polos.) The RAs also had very fascinating and interesting discussions with a University of Nevada -Reno scientist who already flew on the SOFIA experiment and is in charge of the Reno planetarium.

After the conclusion of their tour, the academy folks took a lunch at Sub of the Border, not far from the DRI, and understood that technology is superfluous when you want to pay by credit card (old school tools rock!) The drivers then shuttled everyone back to the quads and several options were used to grab food on the road for dinner: McDonald’s, Panda Express and “emergency angry-because-hungry” Karl went to Safeway.

Tuesday, August 6th:
A full workday!! Happy birthday Curiosity!! It has been one year since Curiosity landed on Mars. At Ames, a celebration party was held and some researchers, for instance Dr. Chris McKay, made a speech about the significant progress of Curiosity. Not all of the Academy members were able to participate in this ceremony; however, the Academites posted congratulatory messages through the Academy Twitter account.

During this work-time, the alarm bells began to ring.... evacuation tests were being held in some buildings! Tom, Nat and Baba escaped from their office once in the morning and again after lunch when the evacuation test was conducted again. Moreover, actual firefighters came in during the second time, and the test was taken a lot more seriously!

After working, some members of the Academy were interviewed outside Hangar 1 by the staffers. During their photo shoot, the RAs made a short elevator speech and talked about their favorite experiences from the summer. It is less than two weeks until the Space Academy finishes, so the students grabbed a light meal (thanks Tom!) and began to work on their final tasks for the summer, including a final group paper, various Academy synopsis discussions, and a final individual paper.

Wednesday, August 7th:
Another full day of individual work for the Academy! A Center-wide Ames picnic was organized on the grass in front of NLSI, and the Academites enjoyed free hamburgers, hot-dogs and cakes for lunch. Some really enjoyed the food and had second and third helpings... Michael!

After the workday was complete, the RAs realized that, when you’re working hard, food is of a great importance! So our best boy staffer Mark brought us crepes from Crepevine for dinner. Some intense and hard work on the group project was done while our lovely Japanese and Australian members had another plan for the evening.

Tom had been invited to a Skype conference about various educational topics between the Australian Space Education Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Baba also joined the conference as a “special guest,” and they gave an overview of the NASA Ames Academy for Space Exploration in not only in English but also Japanese!

Thursday, August 8th:
Today, a cumulative event was held for many of the Ames summer interns, including both high school and university students. Marissa, Baba, and some of the Aeronautics Academy students joined in the closing event for most of the other students at Ames. Some interns gave speeches about their summer experiences and included topics like their individual projects and overall love for NASA.

After these presentations, some of the students were honored as poster session winners. Finally, Dr. William Warmbrodt, the keynote speaker and Principal Investigator of Baba, Nat and Tom’s projects, gave a presentation. Bill showed his staff’s summer photos, welcomed “President Obama,” and generally entertained all of the participants. Overall, the event reminded the Academites that this internship is an important event in their lives, and some of the students began to seriously coming back to Ames and participating in other internships/acting as a NASA Ames Academy Staffer.

At the end of the workday, Natalia and Lynn bought chicken, pasta, pie and drinks for the NASA Ames Academy Alumni Dinner that was to be held Friday evening in Chase Park. However, some of the pasta was eaten due to a miscommunication... oh no! But not to worry, the Academites knew what to do in a crisis: go shopping again!

Friday, August 9th:
Today was an individual project workday: only a week left before the final presentations! A brown bag discussion was held during lunch with John Karcz, and the Academites were deeply interested and fascinated by his discussion on the future of space exploration. The future roles of private companies and space agencies were discussed, and some not-so-science-fiction topics (including the colonization of other planets and the managing of resources at a solar system scale) were part of the intriguing debate.

In the evening, the Academites had to organize, in collaboration with the Aero RAs, a barbecue in Chase Park for the NASA Ames Academy alums. After realizing that the chicken was not going to be defrosted in time, Natalia, Janine, Alana, and Mark conducted an expedition to procure more food. The dinner was ready a bit later, and the Academites were very happy to exchange their elevator speeches with the alumnis. The students then practiced their socializing skills around great drinks and food!

In the second part of the evening, the Academites hung out and valued their last moment as a whole group, for Emily was doing something veryyyy sad the next day. (She’s leaving for her study abroad experience in Australia... oh no!) Everyone, including the staffers, were all together in one room, exchanging their last remarks and reminiscing long into the beautiful Californian evening.

Saturday, August 10th:
Emily’s actual last day... :( Natalia, Tom, Baba, Karl, Lynn, Lauren, and Marissa got up early to hug Emily goodbye. After that, Natalia, Baba, Karl, Lynn, and Mark went to San Jose Airport to see Emily off. This farewell helped the Academites discover that they had indeed become a family... they are already planning to attend each others’ weddings!

Next, almost all of the Academy members met at the vans for a tour of nearby Stanford University given by 2011 Ames Academy alum John Conley. The RAs went around the campus, cafeteria, bookstore, aerospace and astronautics department building, etc. They learned that Stanford is the second largest university in the U.S and is also one of the most famous universities in the world. The students enjoyed this tour immensely and at the same time some of them (especially Baba!) discovered that they may want to attend this prestigious university for graduate school. After the tour, the Space Exploration kids began to work on their group project. The Academites have less than a week to work... Too short!

In the evening, while the students worked feverishly on their projects, Quentin had a Perseid meteor shower party in Fremont Peak, where he had a barbecue and looked for meteors until late.

Sunday, August 11th:
A lot of group project work had to been done on this Sunday! The Academites therefore decided to wake up early... at least that was the plan. Most of the exhausted students didn’t wake up until around 11:00am. A Chipotle/Panera lunch was the breakfast of most of the RAs today.

After lunch, a bunch of work was done on the group project while a crazy spanish girl decided to experience the feeling of free-falling... by skydiving with Brad and some of the Aeronautics Academy students! All the Academites were impressed and proud of Natalia... she did it !

Food was then ordered for the dinner, and the Academites worked (but not too much more) on the group project and almost finished writing the final paper that is due on Tuesday, August 13th. The research associates then went to bed at around 10:00pm to get eight actual hours of sleep before the rush of the final week of Academy!