Better Than Star Wars

Sometimes when you write one post it inspires ideas for your next. That’s what happened when I wrote last week’s episode of “Go Ask Your Father“.

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Crash asked what TIE stands for. A T.I.E. fighter is, of course, a Star Wars vehicle. It’s what Vader and his Empire gang fly. T.I.E stands for Twin Ion Engine.

 

While I was researching that answer I discovered how a twin ion engine works, I found a real life NASA story about ion engines. To put it as simply as I can, an ion engine takes a gas, like xenon, smashes them off each other so they lose electrons and then shove it through an electric field. When the ion is shot from the engine the rocket/spaceship/probe/whatever it’s attached to, it’s propelled forward. Thanks to Newton and his third law; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Hence, when the ion goes backwards, the rocket goes forward. If you’ve ever inflated a balloon just to let it go and watch it zoom around the room then you understand Newton’s third law. There’s your physics lesson for the day. There will be a test later.

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A long time ago, the year of 2007, NASA developed and successfully tested an ion engine (NSTAR). While the force generated was equal to the force needed to hold up a sheet of paper it could generate that force for incredibly long periods of time, think years, with incredibly little fuel. The DAWN mission, a mission to send an orbiter to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to study Ceres and Vesta, uses this engine. It reached speeds over 41,000 kmh (25,500 mph).

“If you remember the TIE fighters that Darth Vader and the Evil Empire used to fight the rebel alliance, TIE stood for ‘twin ion engines’,” he said. “Well, Dawn does the Star Wars TIE fighters one better because we use three ion engines.”

However, NASA has improved upon that engine from 9 years ago. The NEXT (NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster) produces up to 3 times the amount of force as its predecessor and was tested continuously for 51,000 hours (6 years). Imagine having to fill up once every 6 years!

It doesn’t stop there, though. There is yet another ion engine being developed that will far exceed the performance capabilities of NEXT. The first engine (NSTAR) would be the equivalent of a ’92 Toyota Carolla. The NEXT would be a Corvette. The NSTAR a Lamborghini. Perhaps one day these engines will power our own vehicles and finally end our dependency on fossil fuels. Gas stations will look extremely different by then!

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Research gathered from:
NASA
New Scientist

This Taboo Word Challenge wasn’t too tough today! Today’s word was “in”.
To read more posts without the Taboo Word (in) or to join the challenge just click the blue frog…

To add the blue frog to your post get the InLinkz code.

 

STEM Girls

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My aunt posted this article, Why Girls Need Stem and Why Stem Needs Girls to her FB. I was intrigued. I knew I was going to write about this so I saved the link in my drafts. A week or so later I was watching TV.

Do you remember that show with Corey and Topanga- Boy meets world? Well, they made a sequel to it. Corey and Topanga grew up, got married and had two kids. One is a teenage girl. Hence, it’s called Girl Meets World.

I found myself watching an episode of it (again) the other night. It was my sign that it was time to write.

In this episode titled Girl Meets STEM (see the theme, now), Riley takes a stand when she notices that it’s just the boys who conduct the science experiments. The central problem of this episode revolves around the fact that the female characters were at the age when most girls start dropping out of STEM classes.

Science
Technology
Engineering
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These are the areas where the greatest developments occur. Marie Curie and her
radioactivity research. Sally Ride, the first woman in space. Antonia Coello Novello, the first female Surgeon General of the United States. Kari Byron, a co-host of Mythbusters. Ms. Frizzle.

Okay, so that next to last one doesn’t have the staggering STEM resume the others do. But, she is in the field of science working to make science exciting for teens. And the last one isn’t real. Still, I think girls appreciate the show just as much as the boys do.

The first article reports that about 10-30% of STEM occupations are female. A quick google search reveals very similar numbers for the number of males in the teaching profession between elementary and high school.

Why this odd imbalance? Historically speaking, that’s the way it’s always been. This is the 21st century. It doesn’t have to be like that any more. Women have proven over and over again, they are just as capable as men.

We need to rethink how we treat the girls in these classes when they are still young. Stop gender stereotyping and allow kids to explore, engineer, build, study, think whatever it is they can dream up. I’m certainly not saying take away their dolls – that how they learn to be mothers (just as our boys have Sweet Baby to practice caring for to be good dads). I’m saying give them that which they can discover and reinvent the world. Building blocks. Science kits. Solar powered robots. Lego is for everyone!

Allow them to explore the world and the world will be theirs.

Do with boys, too. They love it just as much.

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