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Press Release for Tuesday, April 1, 2014

UNF Student Engineering Team Reaches for the Stars

Media Contact: Jessica Scott, Public Relations Specialist

Department of Public Relations

(904) 620-2192


A University of North Florida student team is among a select group of universities from across the country that has been selected by NASA to fly their experiments aboard the agency’s G Force One aircraft this spring.


“This is just another example of the extremely high quality of the University’s engineering programs,” said Dr. Mark Tumeo, School of Computing, Construction and Engineering dean. “NASA received proposals from across the country…from the top engineering schools in the nation. UNF students and programs compete well with the best.”


The NASA experience includes scientific research, experimental design, test operations and outreach activities. It supports NASA’s strategic goal of sharing the agency’s missions and programs with the public, educators and students to provide opportunities to participate in its mission and foster innovation.


“This year, students submitted proposals based on current NASA science and technology priorities. It was wonderful to review the creative responses because they provide tangible benefit to both NASA and the university teams. It’s truly a win-win,” said Frank Prochaska, Reduced GravityEducation Program manager.


Chelsea Partridge, a UNF junior majoring in mechanical engineering and Jacksonville Commitment scholar, is leading one of 18 undergraduate student teams from universities around the U.S. selected to test science experiments under microgravity conditions as part of the 2014 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. Five teams will fly their experiments aboard the aircraft Friday, April 4 through Saturday, April 12, and 13 teams will fly their experiments Friday, May 30, through Saturday, June 7. The UNF team will fly in late May.


“Our diverse backgrounds definitely give us an advantage. We all have varying education, experience and expertise that allow each of us to contribute and make us a stronger team,” said Partridge.


The teams are designing and building the experiments at their home campuses and will transport them to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for tests aboard an aircraft modified to mimic a reduced-gravity environment. The UNF team is no exception. It will develop and test a first-generation experiment system in the short-duration, zero-gravity environment to emulate blood flow in the human body.


Such a system could then be further developed in the next generation for use in long-term space biomedical experiments. The aircraft will fly approximately 30 parabolas with roller-coaster-like climbs and dips to produce periods of weightlessness and hyper gravity ranging from zero to two g’s.


UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.