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Microgravity: ASGSR Competition and Convention

October 31, 2016

Last Spring, Jack Madden and Gracen Mueller started the Microgravity club because of their interest in Aerospace engineering. The goal of the club was to submit entries to the ASGSR (American Society for Gravitational and Space Research) Capillary Flow Challenge (CFC). We divided into 2 teams. Jack Madden led the team of Kaitlyn Baldizzi, Chloe Harris, and Hunter Damron. Gracen led the team of Ryan Cuentes and me. Both teams spent months, including the summer, researching articles about fluid dynamics and the effects of capillary action in microgravity. We had absolutely no clue what we were doing when we began, but by the end of the summer, we had absorbed the knowledge of decades of research.

The outline of the challenge was to shoot a droplet of silicon oil as far and fast as possible during a 2.2 second drop at NASA’s Glenn Research Center (GRC). This drop simulates the effects of freefall experienced in space called microgravity. Both teams created designs to be tested in this drop tower with the use of computer simulations. We sent our proposals, including simulation data and Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings, and were approved. We rushed to manufacture our apparatuses and sent them to GRC to be dropped. And then we waited for the results to be returned. The results were returned October 17th and we rushed to analyze them before our presentation to the school on the 25th and to ASGSR and NASA on the 29th.

This all brings me to the Conference. Gracen Mueller, Jack Madden, Hunter Damron, Kaitlyn Baldizzi, and I were able to fly up to Cleveland over the past weekend (October 27th to October 30th). We visited GRC, the Great Lakes Science Museum, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (for a short time), and the ASGSR Conference. We presented our posters on the 30th to a series of judges and numerous other scientists. When I said earlier that we met people that we cited, I meant it. Dr. Mark Weislogel literally wrote the book on microgravity droplet ejection that was used as the primary resource for Jack’s team. At the end of the conference was the banquet. This was a time to recognize extraordinary scientists and the winners of various competitions. Both teams were let down when we were not called. At the end of the dinner, however, Dr. DeGennaro came up to us and told us that we (Gracen’s team) had won the Capillary Flow Challenge. We had the fastest and earliest ejection of all of the teams competing against us and so we had won the first CFC.

I still have a hard time believing that we actually competed in and won this competition. This was an incredible experience and I hope that my juniors will be able to do it next year.

I am incredibly grateful to Dr. DeGennaro and Dr. Whitbeck for advising our club; Dr. Parshall for helping us prototype, print, and going with us; ASGSR and NASA for hosting the competition and allowing us to participate; and last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank Kim Bowman and the Foundation for graciously sponsoring our trip, our experiment, and supporting us in every way.

If you want to know more about our project and feel free to email me at bcain17@gssm.k12.sc.us.

Brennan Cain '17
York County

Pictured above: Dr. Al DeGennaro, Gracen Mueller, Brennan Cain accepting the certificate for winning the Capillary Flow Challenge

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