|Air Force Captains Mentor Student Team that Earns U.S. Patent |
Air Force Captains Mentor Student Team that Earns U.S. Patent
Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee -- April 30, 2001 (AFPN) -- A satellite door developed in the late 90s by high school students with the help of two Air Force captains has recently been awarded a U.S. patent.
While stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Capts. Phi-Anh Lutz and Wes Turner, helped students from Albuquerque's Eldorado High School develop the satellite door as part of the Air Force's Students Planning and Conducting Experiments program. This is a program, sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab at Kirtland, designed to help stir interest among high school students in math, science and engineering.
Lutz is now assigned to the Arnold Engineering Development Center's facilities operations and maintenance division here, while Turner works at the Space and Missile Center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The program allows schools to set up student teams to conduct experiments, with Air Force active-duty members and civilians serving as mentors.
"It was refreshing working with young, bright minds," said Turner. "Where older people will often say, 'We can't do it that way,' the students were open to new ideas."
The team patented an electromagnetic sliding space environment protection satellite door. It works by being suspended between a series of magnets that repel magnets that are attached to the door.
"There are a lot of mechanical parts including gears, hinges and springs in conventional doors," Lutz said. "When these parts fail, it's very expensive to go into space and replace them. The student's idea was to have as few moving parts as possible."
Lutz said she and Turner simply told the kids what to design, but not how to do it.
"The students brainstormed for a while and came up with numerous ideas that included a revolving door, similar to what some hotels use and a few other ideas before settling on an idea of using a door with magnets," she said.
For demonstration purposes, and with the project's $1,000 set budget, the team simply held the magnets in place with epoxy glue, Lutz said. The door is slid between an opened or closed position using electromagnets.
"When a satellite rotates toward the sun, or is in the path a of meteor shower or other space debris, on-board instruments or instrument panels that may contain delicate equipment can be protected by closing the door," she said. "We tried to keep the design, construction and testing as simple as possible."
The project was so simple that it "hardly made a dent" in the team's $1,000 budget, taking only about $200 in materials, said Lutz. Costs were kept low by shopping at stores such as Radio Shack and Home Depot, said Turner
Lutz gives credit to the high school students who worked on the team, most of whom are now in college.
"They will benefit from their well-deserved teamwork and the accomplishment of being able to put U.S. Patent Number 6,109,564 on their resumes after college," she said.
The group consisted of students Darren Hand, Albert Kwong, Kendra Lipinski, Val Lipinski, David Paradiso, Carl Towner and David Tseng; their teacher, Margaret Showalter; and Lutz and Turner.
The mentoring part of the program doesn't take as much time as most people may think, Lutz said. During her time at Kirtland, she and Turner mentored for about two or three hours a week.
(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service. Michael Sheffield, AEDC Public Affairs, contributed to this story)