A team of 11 students from West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will develop and fly their own research experiment in microgravity aboard NASA’s microgravity research aircraft next summer.

WVU is one of 24 undergraduate student teams from around the country to be invited to participate in the NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, which will be conducted at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston next June.

Representing CEMR’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering; and the Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering are: Aaron Costa, Aaron Deneau, Carla Feragotti, Stewart Harvin, Enmanuel Madera, Jeremy Pepper, Darius Reynolds, Caleb Rice, Alex Squires, Miranda Straub and Nathan Weese.

This year’s experiment focuses on fluidized bed processes, which could reveal important applications in space in a wide range of processes including filtration, combustion, and chemical processing, according to John Kuhlman, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the team’s advisor.

“This will be the 11th team of WVU students who will get this opportunity to develop and fly their own research experiment in microgravity this coming summer, aboard the NASA microgravity research aircraft,” Kuhlman said.

“I am really proud of our team successfully competing against proposals that were developed by other student teams from colleges and universities all over the U.S.,” Kuhlman said. “It’s an exceptional opportunity for our undergraduate students to apply their engineering knowledge from their formal classes to a research problem of real interest to NASA.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate committee that oversees NASA, said, “This is a great announcement for West Virginia, and for WVU. It’s so encouraging to me that our students can compete with anyone around the country when it comes to high-tech fields of study. I can’t wait to see what these bright young students learn from this experience.”

Click below to hear Inside WVU on the NASA microgravity program.

Ten WVU students attended the program last year. That team’s experiment involved an electromagnetically enhanced fluidized bed. A fluidized bed occurs when solid particles are placed under certain conditions that cause them to boil and swirl, essentially behaving as a fluid.

“I’m a big believer that for West Virginia students to be competitive in the 21st century we absolutely have to focus on science, technology, engineering and math,” Rockefeller said. “That’s why I’m so thrilled to see a student group from WVU leading the way. As Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, I’ve been a longtime fighter for investments in these subjects, and I’ll continue doing all I can to keep West Virginia a valuable competitor in the future.”



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