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Student Experiment Microgravity Kit Wins NASA-Make Tech Contest

May 20, 2011

David E. Steitz 
Headquarters, Washington 

Ruth Dasso Marlaire 
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. 

RELEASE: 11-159


MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- "Bring It Back," a small and inexpensive 
microgravity spaceflight kit, has won the do-it-yourself technology 
and education space competition sponsored by NASA and MAKE Magazine. 

The competition challenged participants to design experiments that 
could be built for under $200 by high school students to eventually 
fly on a suborbital flight. In addition to being low cost, the 
winning entry also had to illustrate sound science, technology, 
engineering and math (STEM) principles. The competition was designed 
to inspire curiosity and create interest in STEM among classroom 
teachers and students. 

The "Bring It Back" concept, created by Houston engineers Prashant Rao 
and Subra Sankaran, outlines three experiments using molten wax to 
demonstrate important principles of science and engineering. Each 
experiment can be performed using the same equipment, making the kit 
versatile. The students will use wax to understand the dominance of 
surface tension, wetting effects and the impact of a lack of buoyancy 
in the absence of gravity. Other science concepts include simulated 
boiling, fluid flow behavior and bubble movements induced by 
temperature changes, natural convection, and wake flow. 

"It is a challenge to create an affordable and achievable method for 
microgravity experiments, but the Houston team came up with three 
innovative options, using materials easily found in most 
communities," said Bobby Braun, Chief Technologist at NASA 
Headquarters in Washington. "As a result, students across the country 
will have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with some of 
the principles required in a career in science and engineering." 

Sponsored by Teachers in Space, a project of the Space Frontier 
Foundation in Nyack, N.Y, the first "Bring It Back" kits will fly 
aboard the Excelsior STEM mission scheduled to fly on a Masten 
Aerospace unmanned suborbital mission later this year. Teachers and 
students will assemble the experiment kits at a Suborbital Flight 
Experiment Workshop at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center's AERO 
Institute in Palmdale, Calif., in early August. 

"At this stage of their lives, we think it is particularly important 
to provide an experience that will get students excited about science 
and engineering in general, and space in particular, all in an 
artistic and imaginative way," Sankaran said. He is a senior thermal 
specialist at MEI Technologies and Jacobs/ESCG in Houston. Rao is a 
principal engineer at Barrios Technology and Jacobs/ESCG in Houston. 

Their kit was selected as the winner by NASA's Ames Research Center in 
Moffett Field, Calif., MAKE Magazine and Teachers in Space. Sankaran 
and Rao will be honored May 21 and 22 at the Bay Area Maker Faire in 
San Mateo, Calif. 

"I believe that makers are inspired by the emerging opportunities for 
'do-it-yourself' space exploration," said Dale Dougherty, founder and 
publisher of MAKE Magazine, a do-it-yourself publication for 
technology. "We are proud to partner with Teachers in Space and NASA 
to encourage makers to develop space science kits that high school 
teachers can build and fly on suborbital flights. The project's 
ultimate goal is to open the door for the next generation of makers 
to gain real-world experience in space science. " 

For more information about the NASA MAKE Challenge, visit: 


For more information about Teachers in Space, visit: 


For more information about NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, 



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