Weightless Lumbees' to Experiment with NASA
Lumbees: From left are Cynthia Brewer, Robbie Goins, Toni Chagolla,
Joe Oxendine, April Oxendine, Keil Locklear and Mary Beth Brayboy.
Not pictured: Ginger Moody.
A UNC Pembroke and
UNC Charlotte team of Lumbee Indian students have been selected for
a NASA research program. Eight students, from Robeson, Hoke and Scotland
counties, will conduct scientific experiments aboard a reduced-gravity
The group, which
has dubbed itself "The Weightless Lumbees," was selected from
a highly competitive field of elite universities. They face a daunting
task of raising approximately $20,000 to finance the April flight.
Just days after
sending its first American Indian astronaut to space, the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) selected a team of Lumbee students to
participate in a research program that will soon have them floating
in zero gravity.
The team's research
proposal was one of 72 selected in a blind screening process from the
more than 300 submitted by universities nationwide for NASA's KC-135A
Reduced Gravity Undergraduate Research Program. They will join teams
from MIT, Harvard, Purdue and other universities in testing their research
in zero gravity.
The students, all
members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, received news on Dec.
6 that one of two proposals had been accepted. On Dec. 16, they got
the news that all eight students would fly with two experiments.
Lumbees" team started work in October, preparing their research
proposals using email and videoconferencing labs at the two campuses.
The UNCP team members
include: April Oxendine, a junior chemistry major from Lumberton, Toni
Chagolla, a senior biology and chemistry major from Shannon, Cynthia
Brewer a junior biomedical major from Shannon, Joe Oxendine, a senior
molecular biotechnology major from Raeford and Mary Beth Brayboy, a
senior mass communications major from Laurinburg.
The UNC Charlotte
members include: Ginger Moody, a senior business major from Maxton,
Robbie Goins, a junior civil engineering major from Pembroke and Kiel
Locklear, a senior mechanical engineering major from Pembroke.
The team members
are excited about the adventure.
"We are taking
liquids of different weights and colors to see the effects of weightlessness
on how they diffuse," said April Oxendine.
"We will also
replicate the experiment here in the lab for comparison to what happens
during weightlessness," said Joe Oxendine. "I should point
out that, as the plane flies, we have 40 seconds of weightlessness during
40 parabolic flight paths."
During the press
conference, there was considerable joking about the knickname of the
NASA craft, which is often referred to as the "vomit comet."
"If they prepare
themselves, they should not have any problems," said Brayboy, who
as public relations coordinator for the group will not ride in the aircraft.
The group said they
are proud to be selected, and they believe that NASA research is beneficial
for their undergraduate experience and for the surrounding community.
a big thing for getting a job or going to graduate school," said
Joe Oxendine. "This is a good thing."
"When we make
presentations in elementary schools, kids can see that this kind of
education is a possibility for them too," said Kiel Locklear.
"They are role
models," Brayboy said.
Dr. Tim Ritter,
a UNCP chemistry professor and advisor for
the project, said there is a great deal to be proud of.
and the community should all be proud of them," Dr. Ritter said.
"How many times do people here get to be in the national spotlight?"
The team will fly
to Houston, Texas, to spend April 10-19 researching how liquids diffuse
in a reduced gravity environment. To do so, the students - some of whom
have never flown in a commercial aircraft before - will be flying in
NASA's KC-135A aircraft, an airplane that, through controlled dives,
can simulate zero gravity in its bay. The sensation has landed the research
facility the dubious nickname of "vomit comet."
The team members,
who met each other face-to-face for the first time as they learned their
project had been selected, will begin conducting preliminary research
in the next few weeks.
Team advisors say
the students' research could prove valuable to those working at NASA
on shuttle missions and international space station work. Their Aqueous
Diffusion Rates (ADR) project could inform their work when mixing liquids
in low gravity environments.
Both UNCP and UNC
Charlotte conducted competitive selection processes for the student
teams and released their final rosters Oct. 4.
NASA's KC-135A Reduced
Gravity Undergraduate Research Program is designed to inspire student
interest in science, engineering and technology. For more information
on the 2003 KC-135 program, visit their website at www.microgravity.nasa.gov.
The Weightless Lumbees' project may be made to the UNCP Foundation by
calling 910.521.6252. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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