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New Orbits March 17, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in education, science, space.
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Paper filled with tidbits today. Of most interest was that a local high school senior won the Intel Science Fair (or whatever the name is now). She pulled down a $100k scholarship (to go with the $90k or so she’d already won) doing a computer program determining low energy orbits. I assume she plotted ways of using the various gravity wells to accelerate spacecraft, which is something I thought was well known but apparently is not. Or she did it in a new, improved way, which is quite likely since NASA has been responsible for such calculations before.

She has already won the supercomputing challenge, using a Los Alamos computer, and is the first Abq student to get the #1 prize. Next best was a #4 three years ago done by a student from my old high school, Manzano. From the article she has scholarships to MIT, Cal Tech but wants into Harvard. I hope she isn’t going to be a lawyer.

Every year I try to volunteer as judge in local science fairs. In about a month I’ll be doing that gig. More afterward, I am sure, but it is great fun. One year (at a high school fair) I had a kid who’d built a wind tunnel out of junk found in, well, a junk yard. He was especially funny explaining the airflow over the model of the Enterprise (the Star Trek 1701, not the aircraft carrier). Best of all, he knew what he was talking about. Another kid measured G and longingly said he could do better if he could vary the earth’s gravity. “Warning, at 5PM today, gravity will be reduced to one half for a period of ten minutes while the gravitational constant is being determined.”

It’s good to see some students are still excelling in science and even better that they are in Abq. But the Intel winner’s hs tuition would almost–almost–be covered by that $100k scholarship. She goes to the most expensive private school in town. At least there’s obvious bang for the buck at the Abq Academy.

Congratulations, Erika DeBenedictis. May you show us all the orbit to the stars.

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