Enlightened advice from 6 teen innovators

Cambio.com is always on the look out for inspiring girls who are builders and creators working to change the world. These six teen innovators are doing just that. Simone, Jesseca, Allison, Madison, McKenzie and Ishi are all finalists in this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest high school science research competition.

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Every year, high school students are encouraged to explore their passion for developing innovations through a global network of science fairs. These six girls are part of a group of approximately 1,700 finalists from around the world who were offered the opportunity to compete for $4 million in awards and scholarships at this year’s international fair.

These teen girls are amazing. Their projects range from “sunscreen” for your roof to a dress that charges your cell phone through solar power. Check out their inspiring advice at Cambio.com and learn what #BUILTBYGIRLS means.

Propelling spacecraft simulator with pure laser light

Research engineers have successfully propelled a 450 g spacecraft simulator with pure laser light using Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) technology.

Photonic Laser ThrusterEngineering.com reports a high-reflector (HR) mirror mounted on a gliding platform was successfully propelled along a 2 m frictionless air track, simulating zero gravity. Photons bounced back and forth several hundred times between two mirrors producing a thrust of up to 1.1 mN.

Sliding down the track, the mirror was propelled toward a rubber band. Once reaching the band, the object was bounced back towards the source of the photons.

Upon approaching the source, the object slowed to a full stop before moving away again, back toward the rubber band.

Watch the experiment in the video below.

To learn more, click here.

Dr. Mason Peck receives NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal

Dr. Mason Peck, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who served as NASA’s chief technologist from January 2012 to December 2013, received the agency’s Distinguished Public Service Medal during a March 7, 2014 ceremony.

“This is an extraordinary honor, and I’m humbled to be in the company of past recipients,” Peck said. “NASA is where we can dream big. Serving at the agency in this capacity was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to the kinds of technologies, exploration and science that define who we are and what we can achieve if we put our minds to it.”

NASA administrator Charles Bolden presents Mason Peck, left, with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal during a March 7, 2014 ceremony at NASA headquarters in Washington. Peck was recognized by the space agency for his outstanding service and leadership during his tenure as NASA chief technologist.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden presents Mason Peck, left, with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal during a March 7, 2014 ceremony at NASA headquarters in Washington. Peck was recognized by the space agency for his outstanding service and leadership during his tenure as NASA chief technologist.

Peck, who researches spacecraft systems at Cornell and leads several high-profile satellite research programs including CUSat and Violet, was the agency’s principal adviser and advocate on matters of technology policy and programs.

His accomplishments at NASA included creating NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, which asks the nation to work together to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them. He developed NASA’s first agencywide space technology investment plan in decades and oversaw the establishment of the new Space Technology Mission Directorate. His has helped build bridges from NASA to thousands of do-it-yourself spacecraft engineers in the U.S. and around the world, the so-called “maker community.”

Another of his responsibilities was communicating how NASA technologies benefit space missions and the day-to-day lives of Americans.

The Distinguished Public Service Medal is NASA’s highest recognition to any nongovernment individual. The award honors an individual “whose distinguished service, ability or vision has personally contributed to NASA’s advancement of the United States’ interests. The individual’s achievement or contribution must demonstrate a level of excellence that has made a profound or indelible impact to NASA mission success.”

Past recipients of the award include Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Robert Heinlein and Gene Roddenberry.

Tiny spacecraft launched into low earth orbit

Zac Manchester, who is studying aerospace engineering at Cornell University, has developed tiny, inexpensive spacecraft called Sprites that are about the size of a cracker. A small satellite called KickSat carried 104 of the Sprites into space in April 2014 and deployed them into low-altitude orbit.

Zac Manchester with KickSat.

Zac Manchester with KickSat.

The KickSat mission launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., after many delays. Sixteen days later, the Sprites were released into a specific orbit as free-flying spacecraft. Within a week of deploying, Manchester expected all of the Sprites to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at which point they will be vaporized.

A student of Dr. Mason Peck at Cornell, Manchester and his team tracked the Sprites, recorded their radio signals and gathered data. Each Sprite included a small device made by Dallas-based TI, sensors and solar cells to transmit real-time data, such as temperature, back to Earth.

The tiny Sprite satellite.

The tiny Sprite satellite.

“The goal of the KickSat mission is to show that these Sprites can survive in space, that we can talk to them and that they can be useful,” Manchester said by phone. “This is basically my Ph.D thesis.”

He had been working on the Sprites for a few years, using different semiconductors, but wanted “a very tiny, tightly integrated chip with a microcontroller and a radio. Then he found TI’s cc430 device, which combines a microprocessor with a low-power integrated radio frequency transceiver.

Manchester also hopes his project will make space missions more accessible and less expensive.

“More access to space will allow more people to get involved … [and] will open up new types of missions, such as ionospheric science,” he said. The ionosphere is the Earth’s upper atmosphere, which affects radio waves and other communications signals.