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Science and Engineering Club

Science and Engineering Club Field Trip

On Saturday, November 6, 2010, the North Tama Elementary Science and Engineering Club visited research facilities at the University of Iowa.

In the morning, Dr. David Andersen, an electrical engineering professor, showed the students around his lab in the Iowa Advanced Technologies Laboratories building at the university. He showed the students the equipment used in his own optical science research. The students were fascinated to learn he used lasers to help identify properties of materials. Different colors of light reflected back from the material helps identify its composition. The students had many questions. They asked Dr. Andersen about the power of the different lasers he used. They wondered how he became a research engineer. Students were also curious about the necessity for using a microscope to see the tiny circuits that were being soldered together for another experiment.

Dr. Andersen showed the students pages from a science notebook he had. He stressed the importance of working very hard in writing classes because scientists need to be able to communicate exactly what they are doing and what they are learning from their work. This ability to communicate is very important in order for scientists to remember exactly what they have done, for others to replicate their work and take the research in new directions, and also so the scientist gets credit for the research they have done. The students were excited to see that scientists in the real world use science notebooks in a similar way they do in their own science classes.

The afternoon took the students to Van Allen Hall also at the university. Students immediately realized the building was name for James Van Allen, whom they had learned about prior to the visit.

Dr. George Hospodarsky, a research scientist from the Department of Physics and Astronomy shared the history of Dr. James Van Allen’s and the University of Iowa’s involvement in space exploration. In the lobby of Van Allen Hall, the students saw photos and memorabilia of Dr. Van Allen’s work and the university’s involvement in early space research.

Dr. Hospodarsky then took the students on a tour of the building and showed them artifacts of the university’s continued work in space research. Students were excited to touch the actual Plasma Diagnostics Package (PDP) satellite that was designed and built at the University of Iowa and flown twice on the space shuttle. The PDP was used to study the effect the space shuttle has on the environment of space.

Students also saw the lab where University of Iowa scientists’ work was recently completed on their part of the Juno spacecraft. University of Iowa scientists had recently shipped their part of the Juno project to Lockheed Martin in Colorado for further assembly. The students learned about Juno’s mission to study Jupiter. Juno’s launch is scheduled for August of 2011.

Students also learned about the Cassini-Huygens mission with which Dr. Hospodarsky and the University of Iowa are involved. The Cassini-Huygens mission is to study Saturn, its rings and moons.

Students had many questions answered throughout the tour. They ended the visit looking at many beautiful photographs of Saturn and its moons.