2021 Student Research Symposium

Banner for August 4 2021 student research symposium

The 2021 MDSGC Student Research Symposium was held via Zoom on Wednesday, August 4, beginning at 9 a.m. EDT.

This year’s symposium showcased presentations by student interns and researchers working at sites across Maryland. The cohort of presenters represented diverse institutions, including: Capitol Technology University, Hagerstown Community College, Morgan State University, NASA Wallops and NASA Ames, Towson University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and West Virginia University. We congratulate our students on a successful summer, under trying circumstances, and look forward to seeing more of their work in the future!

The full program follows. This page may be updated to include links to PDF versions of slides.

2021 MDSGC (Virtual) Student Research Symposium Program

8:45 a.m.
Zoom meeting opens.

Session 1

9:00 a.m.
Introductory Remarks — Dr. Matt Collinge, MDSGC Deputy Director

9:10 a.m.
Radiative Cooling — Ms. Grace Cunningham (WVU / UMES)

The earth is cooled through a process known as radiative cooling. Radiative cooling is seen in many substances and allows a substrate to cool itself below ambient temperatures. Finding substances that use radiative cooling will allow us to cool surfaces without the use of energy.

9:20 a.m.
Science in Space — Ms. Taliyah Jones (UMES / USNA)

This presentation highlights the various activities done to understand science applications in space. It also follows the journey to create a homemade piston launch system that can operate pneumatically and hydraulically.

9:30 a.m.
Space and Technology Internship at the USNA STEM Center — Mr. David Paton (UMBC / USNA)

Throughout this 10-week internship, I was tasked with researching space related physics topics such as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, rotational motion, and gyroscopic motion to make a module that could help educate others about how they impact engineering design in space. I began by looking into rockets, but specifically rocket stability, and how the balancing of the aerodynamic forces is essential for the rocket to achieve stable flight. This involved extensive research into the effect of both the center of gravity (CG) and the center of pressure (CP), and their location along the body of a rocket. I ended up developing a one-page module that allows the STEM center to teach students and educators how to approximate the CP on a rocket and verify that it would be able to achieve stable flight before launching it. Ultimately, I was able to teach this module to 60+ teachers at the SET Sail event in July and provide them with a better understanding about engineering design and rocket stability.

Since finishing the rocket module in mid-July, I have moved on to magnetism and started to work on creating a maglev that would be used within a 1-hour magnetic principles module. I have not completed it yet, but I still have 2 remaining weeks to complete it, and I have made substantial improvements to its design. Working alongside the tool shop on campus, I submitted engineering drawings and had three versions manufactured out of wood, and I am waiting to test the final version. Although this wood version is incomplete, I have been able to utilize Legos to make a modular maglev model that can be customized to one’s preferences and allows for manipulation of both the train tracks and the car to test different designs. It has been very successful thus far and I plan on using both the wooden and Lego maglev in the development of a module.

9:40 a.m.
CMFX Hardware and Design — Mx. Leah Dorsey (CTU / UMBC)

This presentation will cover the hardware selection and design process for subassemblies on the Centrifugal Mirror Fusion Experiment (CMFX). The gas puff valve system and capacitor rack redesign will be discussed in detail.

9:50 a.m.
Interaction Between Emergent Behaviors — Mr. Charles Demery (MSU / UMCP)

Using kilobots, two emergent behaviors will be put in the same environment to see how they interact with each other. The first emergent behavior is based off potential cell repair with kilobots using gradient to find and surround damaged cells. The second is based off typical herding behavior of animals. The two emergent behaviors have a similar end result using two different parameters. When put in the same environment it seems the behaviors don’t interact as the herding kilo bots form separately from the gradient kilobots who focus only on one kilobot to surround.

10:00 a.m.
Getting from Point A to Point B in Five-Dimensions — Mr. Ozzy Weinreb (TU)

The standard line element in general relativity contains 4-dimensions (3 spatial and one temporal). It seems plausible that adding mass as a 5th coordinate will more accurately describe the physical world. This talk will motivate the use of this 5-dimensional line element. A particular form of 5-dimensional metric will also be presented along with some attempts at testing this metric physically.

10:10 a.m.
Physics of the Alternate Tooniverse — Mr. Victor Terranova (TU)

In physics, there is an idea that multiple universes may exist. One of these possible universes is the cartoon universe. The differences between our universe to that of the Looney Tooniverse will be observed in this presentation. .

10:20 a.m.
Q&A BREAK

We will pause for questions to the first group of presenters. Questions may be entered in Zoom chat or online Q&A tool — be sure to specify to which presenter your question is addressed. If time permits additional questions will be taken from the audience — use “Raise Hand” function to be called on by moderators.

10:30 a.m.
Poster Flash Talks

      • Documentation and Improvements to a NASA Flight Safety Risk Tool — Mr. Brandon Gardner (UMES / NASA WFF)
      • Balloon Flight Data Analysis — Mr. Kijjiketchme Southern-Fox (UMES / NASA WFF)
      • Interference to NASA GPS Applications: Lunar Missions & Climatology — Ms. Emma Griffith (UMD / NASA HQ)
      • Optimizing a Mathematical Model for the Intensity of the Extragalactic Background Light — Ms. Maegan Jennings (TU)
      • Rolling Railgun: A Lab Activity for Introductory Electromagnetism — Ms. Taylor Pettaway (TU)
      • Redesign of the 2020 Morgan State Mining Robot Scooper Mechanism — Ms. Emma Brown (UMCP / MSU)
      • Flywheels as Batteries — Mr. Colin Choudhary (TU)
      • Feasibility of using Wifi for high-speed communications with High-Altitude Balloons, drones, and other platforms — Mr. Ethan Hart (UMES / CTU)
      • Discovering the Beyond: Design and Analysis of Morgan State University Liquid Propellant Rocket — Ms. Margaret Ajuwon (MSU)
      • Participation in RockOn 2021 Sounding Rocket Program Launch by NASA — Mr. Marc Caballes and Mr. Sam Alamu (MSU)

Virtual Poster Session


10:45 a.m. — 11:20 a.m.
Poster Session / Break. Stand up and stretch! Then sit down again and peruse our virtual poster session. Click images for full size versions. At 11:20 a.m. we will reconvene for poster Q&A. Enter questions in the online Q&A tool. If possible, remain connected to the Zoom meeting (muted) during the break to reduce time required to restart after the break.

Thumbnail of intern Brandon Gardner's poster
Documentation and Improvements to a NASA Flight Safety Risk Tool — Mr. Brandon Gardner (UMES / NASA WFF)
Thumbnail of intern Kijjiketchme Southern-Fox's poster
Balloon Flight Data Analysis — Mr. Kijjiketchme Southern-Fox (UMES / NASA WFF)
Thumbnail of intern Emma Griffith's poster
Interference to NASA GPS Applications: Lunar Missions & Climatology — Ms. Emma Griffith (UMD / NASA HQ)
Thumbnail of Noam Kaplan's poster
Portable UAV Design for Wildfire Safety Efforts — Mr. Noam Kaplan (UMD / NASA Ames)
Thumbnail of Maegan Jennings' poster
Optimizing a Mathematical Model for the Intensity of the Extragalactic Background Light — Ms. Maegan Jennings (TU)
Thumbnail of Taylor Pettaway's poster
Rolling Railgun: A Lab Activity for Introductory Electromagnetism — Ms. Taylor Pettaway (TU)
Thumbnail of Emma Brown's poster
Redesign of the 2020 Morgan State Mining Robot Scooper Mechanism — Ms. Emma Brown (UMCP / MSU)
Thumbnail of Colin Choudhary's poster
Flywheels as Batteries — Mr. Colin Choudhary (TU)
Thumbnail of intern Ethan Hart's Poster
Feasibility of using Wifi for high-speed communications with High-Altitude Balloons, drones, and other platforms
— Mr. Ethan Hart (UMES / CTU)
Thumbnail of Margaret Ajuwon's poster
Discovering the Beyond: Design and Analysis of Morgan State University Liquid Propellant Rocket — Ms. Margaret Ajuwon (MSU)
Thumbnail of poster by Marc Caballes and Sam Oludayo Alamu
Participation in RockOn 2021 Sounding Rocket Program Launch by NASA — Mr. Marc Caballes and Mr. Sam Alamu (MSU)

11:20 a.m.
Q&A for Posters

We will reconvene for questions related to poster presentations and any remaining questions for earlier presenters. Questions may be entered in Zoom chat or online Q&A tool — be sure to specify to which presenter your question is addressed. If time permits additional questions will be taken from the audience — use “Raise Hand” function to be called on by moderators.

Session 2

11:30 a.m.
Robotics and Embedded Systems Applications with Arduino UNO and Raspberry Pi — Mr. Arya Das (UMBC / UMES)

Sensing, actuation, and control are integral to smart devices with embedded microcontrollers. Arduino and Raspberry Pi microcontrollers and single-board computers can be interfaced with various sensors and actuators and incorporated in mechanical devices to perform a variety of intelligent functions using appropriate software programming. In this presentation use of C++(Sketch), Scratch, Bloxter, and Python programs compiled and executed on Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards interfaced with various sensors and actuators will be elaborated. A novel application using a soft gripper mounted on a mobile robotic device embedded with a Raspberry Pi board will be outlined. Path following application using a light sensor will also be demonstrated on the mobile device using three different methods including proportional, integral, and, derivative (PID) control. The different methods will be compared using path following error data collected and plotted using MATLAB software. With appropriate trials well-tuned PID gains have been identified that ensure accurate path following at different speeds of the mobile robotic platform. A Python program has been developed that allows the user to input any desired speed and the device accurately tracks the path using PID control using interpolated gain values autonomously. The internship also provided an opportunity to get exposure to other activities in the Robotics and Manufacturing Automation Lab at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore(UMES) including industrial robotic arms, soft robotics, and digital agriculture applications using FarmBots, drones, robotic boats, and ground robots. 

11:40 a.m.
Impact of COVID-19 on air quality — Mr. Will Klein (HCC / UMES)

Air pollution is a global health concern and has led to millions of premature deaths. In overpopulated cities, pollutants such as PM2.5, ozone, and NO2 have disastrous effects on human health and exacerbate respiratory illnesses. COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions have played a major role in air quality and human health. The cities observed in this study are Milan, Kolkata, São Paulo, Los Angeles, and Sydney. The biggest contributors to air pollution in Los Angeles and Sydney were natural wildfires that increased concentrations of PM2.5. In Kolkata trash burning, diesel engines, and coal combustion led PM2.5 and NO2 to increase during the winter months. Milan’s topography promoted PM2.5 concentrations by casting a thick and protective fog over the area during the winter months. The deforestation of the rainforests in Brazil promoted PM2.5 by causing droughts in Sao Paulo, which made the city very dusty, and worsened the air quality. By analyzing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemics on air quality, the scope for environmental restoration is seen as people and governments learn what contributes to air quality, and how humans can manipulate it. The findings from this study, and other contemporary ones, could aid in efforts towards combating climate change, and sustaining human life.

11:50 a.m.
Hot Intern Summer: Data Acquisition System Design, Assembly, and Integration for the Liquid Propellant Rocket — Ms. P. Wilson (CTU / MSU)

The summer internship and exchange program hosted by Maryland Space Grant Consortium (MDSGC) consists of a 10-weeks internship program in the five participating universities in Maryland. The goal of this internship study is to design, build, and test the Data Acquisition (DAQ) system to be integrated into the liquid propellant rocket (LPR) design at Morgan State University. The study involved programming both Arduino and Raspberry Pi to measure the pressure and temperature readings of the propellant tanks and combustion chamber, in order to make a comparison between the two microcontrollers. Arduino boards (UNO and Nano), along with temperature and pressure sensors, were used to build the DAQ system. Arduino codes were written in the sketch files and uploaded to measure the temperature and pressure readings from the MAX6675 and barometric pressure sensor respectively. These collected results from the DAQ system were compared with results from the several temperature and pressure meters under different conditions (e.g., cold water, hot water) for the Arduino-based temperature sensor and air compressor for the pressure transducer. Results indicated that the developed DAQ system is capable of measuring temperature and pressure with minor errors. The results of this study may benefit the ongoing liquid rocket design at Morgan State University with the aim of reaching 13,000 ft altitude.

12:00 p.m.
3D Modeling, Design Analysis of the Rocket’s Fins using SolidWorks and OpenRocket Simulator and GPS Systems Testing of a Liquid Propellant Rocket — Mr. Justyn Bunkley (UMBC / MSU)

The Morgan State University, ARROW Rocketry Team, is developing a single-stage liquid-propellant rocket (LPR) with a targeted apogee of 13,000 feet. Due to the complexity of the LPR, each component of the rocket must be studied and investigated thoroughly. The ARROW Rocketry Team has decided to use a Featherweight GPS System to track the position of the liquid propellant rocket. During Morgan State’s previous launching of their solid-propellant rocket, an unexpected error occurred in which the Featherweight GPS recorded incorrect data. One of the leading hypotheses of this error is the location of the tracking device inside the rocket that causes system interference with other devices. A reliable GPS system is needed to accurately record the apogee and location of the liquid propellant rocket. To conduct an experimental analysis of the reliability of the Featherweight GPS system, the MSU Rocketry Team isolated the tracking device and placed it inside the nose cone rather than in the altimeter bay. During the rocket launched on the second day of July 2021, the data collected from the Featherweight GPS system was 98.74% similar to the result of the simulated data. Thus, the MSU Rocketry Team decided to use the Featherweight GPS system on their liquid-propellant rocket. Moreover, a wide variety of research and peer-reviewed journals that deal with the rocket’s nose cone and the characteristics of its airframe are already publicly accessible. However, there are only a few in-depth studies that deal specifically with the rocket’s fin. Thus, this research not only focuses on studying the property of the GPS system, but as well as how different factors, such as the types of fins – clipped delta and trapezoidal; the number of fins – 3 and 4; fin materials – carbon fiber, aluminum, and fiberglass; and its geometric dimensions – root chord, sweep angle, and chord height, affect the rocket’s overall performance. Through the usage of the OpenRocket Simulator, a wide variety of data was collected that shows possible outcomes on both the rocket’s apogee and stability. Additionally, a factorial design – Design of Experiments (DOE), was created using the data collected through the Minitab Statistical software to perform statistical analysis in finding the significant factors and creating both surface and contour plots. Results indicated that the best design to reach the maximum apogee is a three (3) clipped delta-shaped tail fin design made of fiberglass material. The fiberglass material is desirable for a rocket fin because of its chemical and physical properties. It has a high strength-to-weight ratio. It has a similar strength to materials with much greater densities and much greater strength than most materials of similar density. It is very durable and resistant to most forms of moisture and corrosion.

12:10 p.m.
HelicitySpace Internship — Ms. Grace Warznak (UMCP / UMBC)

From mid-May to the end of July, Grace Warznak had an internship with the HelicitySpace Corporation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County through Maryland Space Grant Consortium. The internship involved writing code and machining parts for the assembly of the first iteration of the Helicity Drive, a fusion space propulsion system using peristaltic magnet compression.

12:20 p.m.
SS. John W. Brown Steam Engine — Ms. Jennifer Scheiderer and Ms. Katie Shaw (TU)

We are modernizing the method of measuring horsepower and efficiency on one of the last two surviving liberty ships. We faced many challenges getting a functioning set up and still have future challenges for the main engine.

12:30 p.m.
Transiting Exoplanets  — Mr. Christopher Pamah (TU)

A slightly in depth look at the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission and how we plan to aid the confirmation of exoplanet candidates. I will also discuss how to select candidates for follow up observations, calibrating images, and the application of photometry to obtain the desired light curve. 

12:40 p.m.
The Scourge of Online Solutions and an Academic Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram — Mr. Jacob Buchman (TU)

We report on preliminary results of a statistical study of student performance in more than a decade of calculus-based introductory physics courses. Treating average homework and test grades as proxies for student effort and comprehension respectively, we plot comprehension versus effort in an academic version of the astronomical Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (which plots stellar luminosity versus temperature). We study the evolution of this diagram with time, finding that the “academic main sequence” has begun to break down in recent years as student achievement on tests has become decoupled from their homework grades. We present evidence that this breakdown is likely related to the emergence of easily accessible online solutions to most textbook problems, and discuss possible responses and strategies for maintaining and enhancing student learning in the online era.

12:50 p.m.
Final Q&A

We will take questions for the final group of presenters and any remaining questions for earlier presenters. Questions may be entered in Zoom chat or online Q&A tool — be sure to specify to which presenter your question is addressed. If time permits additional questions will be taken from the audience — use “Raise Hand” function to be called on by moderators.

1:00 p.m.
Concluding Remarks — Dr. Matt Collinge

MDSGC offers our sincere congratulations to our student presenters, a huge thanks to our internship mentors, collaborators, and supporting staff, and our hope that all attendees have enjoyed and learned from these presentations!

Interactive Astrophysics Stories

At the MDSGC Observatory, we’re always looking to share our enthusiasm about the Universe and its many fascinating phenomena. Therefore, we’re pleased to present this short series of interactive online astrophysics stories!

#4: Detecting Exoplanets via Transits

Snapshot of a simulated planetary transit across the face of its host star.

Since the first discoveries starting in the 1990s (see post below), the continued search for new exoplanets and the study of their properties has grown into a major area of astronomical research. As additional effort has been invested and new technologies have been developed, the primary techniques for finding and characterizing new exoplanets have also evolved. Follow this link over to our Exoplanet Transits story at ObservableHQ to learn about how astronomers have discovered most of the exoplanets we now know — and where we’re still looking to improve our knowledge!

#3: Hot Jupiter Systems

Still frame of an animation of a Hot Jupiter planet orbiting its host star.

Until the 1990s, the only planets known to science were the nine* of our own solar system. As technology progressed and astronomers began to focus their efforts on looking for planets around other stars, they received several great surprises in the form of just how different the first discovered “exoplanet” systems were, compared to ours. In the decades since, intense efforts have revealed a more detailed picture, and we now understand planetary systems to be a widespread if not universal phenomenon — as astronomers had hoped all along. But the earliest discovered systems continue to play an important role in our new understanding. Follow this link over to our Hot Jupiter story at ObservableHQ to learn more!

(*Those were the days, eh, Pluto?)

#2: Imaging a Star Cluster

Image of stars in Messier 67 taken from the Maryland Space Grant Observatory.

When it comes to practical astronomy, whether we’re idly admiring the night sky or concentrating closely on a telescopic view, star clusters are some of the most interesting things up there. The image above shows a portion of the star cluster Messier 67 obtained from our Observatory. (Another prime example of a star cluster is also one of the Fall sky’s highlights: the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters.) So what, apart from simple visual appeal, makes star clusters interesting for astronomers?

Follow this link over to our interactive Star Cluster Image story at ObservableHQ to learn more!

#1: The Earth-Moon System

Still frame from animation of the Earth-Moon system at the epoch of the dinosaurs, showing Earth's tidal bulge.

It was Fall as we wrote this, and in Earth’s northern hemisphere the days were getting shorter. DayLIGHT, that is! But did you know that actually, the length of Earth’s day is increasing as time goes on? What’s that all about, and what in the Universe could be responsible?

Follow this link over to our interactive Earth-Moon System story at ObservableHQ to find out!

After reading, send us your questions and let us know what you think at mdsgo@jhu.edu!

MDSGC Summer Exchange Internship Program

Each year, student interns are placed at participating MDSGC universities for a paid 10-week engineering internship experience. Visit the 2021 Summer Exchange page to view information about this year’s projects.

The MDSGC Summer Exchange program supports qualified students from participating universities to partake in hands-on summer engineering internships at any of the other participating institutions. Interested students should contact the faculty coordinator (see below) at their home institution.

Currently, the participating institutions and faculty coordinators are:

Capitol Technology University
Prof. Coray Davis

Morgan State University
Prof. Guangming Chen

University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Prof. Carlos Romero-Talamás

University of Maryland, College Park
Prof. Mary Bowden

University of Maryland, Eastern Shore
Prof. Abhijit Nagchaudhuri

Any questions may be addressed to the faculty coordinator at your institution or Matt Collinge at MDSGC.

Observe the Moon

First quarter moon over Earth's limb; photo taken from ISS.
Image of the Moon over Earth’s limb, taken from the International Space Station in 2019.

While most of our attention may understandably be consumed by events taking place here on planet Earth, it’s a good practice to pause occasionally and take in a larger perspective. A fine occasion for such activity presents itself whenever clear skies align with favorable Moon phases.

Each year, International Observe the Moon Night, marked in 2020 on Saturday, September 26th, encourages Earthlings to point our gazes skyward and appreciate our closest celestial neighbor. (NASA organizes a list of events that might allow for an in person experience, as well as ways to participate from home.)

The first quarter lunar phase each month is widely considered to be best for viewing because of its evening visibility and the oblique angle of sunlight that throws its surface details into sharp relief. When looking at the Moon from Earth, we definitely recommend grabbing a pair of binoculars, if available, as any amount of magnification greatly enhances the visibility of surface features such as craters.

And while you’re thinking about gazing skyward, don’t forget to think about other ways to get your astronomy fix, and be sure to check out Sky & Telescope’s Sky at a Glance for more detail about what’s on the celestial menu these days.

Astronomy during the pandemic

NASA SOFIA image of the Milky Way.

While the MDSGC Observatory remains closed for the time being, with a little inspiration and effort we can still admire the night sky above us — and certainly now, as much as ever, we can all benefit from a cosmic perspective!

Here is a recent article by University of Arizona astronomer professor Chris Impey on ways to enjoy astronomy during the pandemic. It’s a must read for would be backyard astronomers. Of special note is the “Sky at a Glance” from Sky & Telescope, a highly useful guide to tracking the Moon, planets, and other noteworthy celestial events.

Another recommended activity that may be appealing is to construct a planisphere: a device that shows the locations of the stars in the sky each night. You can buy one, of course, or use free astronomy software such as Stellarium, but if you happen to live at a latitude not too different from Baltimore, MD (39.29 degrees North) and have access to a printer, you can also make your own using these files: planisphere instructions and planisphere cutouts. The second file has two pages, which need to be printed on separate sheets of paper. You’ll also need a paperclip.

Until we can once again welcome you to visit our Observatory, happy star-gazing!

2020 Student Research Symposium

MDSGC Symposium Banner

The 2020 MDSGC Student Research Symposium was held via Zoom on Friday, August 7, showcasing presentations by student interns and researchers working at sites across Maryland.

This year’s cohort of presenters represented diverse institutions, including: Capitol Technology University, Goddard Space Flight Center, Hagerstown Community College, Kennedy Space Center, Morgan State University, Towson University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Maryland College Park, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore. We congratulate our students on a successful summer, under trying circumstances, and look forward to seeing more of their work in the future!

The full program follows. This page may be updated to include links to PDF of slides as final presentation versions are submitted.

2020 MDSGC (Virtual) Student Research Symposium Program

9:30 a.m.
Zoom access verification and sound checks for presenters.

Session 1

10:00 a.m.
Introductory Remarks — Matt Collinge, MDSGC Deputy Director


10:10 a.m.
Robotic Mining Competition – Izzeldin Abuelgasim (UMES)

The main objective of this presentation is to break down the process that was taking place over the summer on this project. Also, to give a clear understanding of the Robotic Mining Competition project and persuade others to join the cause.


10:20 a.m.
Measuring Fundamental Constants with Torsional Balances​ – Sean Garnett (Towson University)

We report on experiments with a Coulomb balance and Cavendish balance which we hope to integrate into the physics curriculum at Towson University. The Coulomb balance measures the electrostatic force between two charged spheres, while the Cavendish balance measures the gravitational force between two heavy masses. We have been able to confirm the 1/r^2 behavior of Coulomb’s law, after correcting for a weakening effect at small distances due to mutual polarization of the test charges. We are now taking our first data with the Cavendish balance. Both experiments are challenging, but comparable in difficulty with some of the more advanced components of our existing Intermediate Laboratory course.


10:30 a.m.
What Goes Up Must Come Down – Charis Houston (Capitol Technology University)

The presentation focuses on the activity created for the USNA STEM Center. The activity focuses on basic cybersecurity principles in combination with satellites. Students have to build, launch, and successfully recover a model satellite.


10:40 a.m.
Remote Internship: Robotics, Sensors, Coding, and Pollution Data Analysis related to Covid-19​ – Courtney Davidson (UMCP)

My remote internship was split into two projects; robotics and pollution research in correlation to the coronavirus lockdown. The GoPiGo3 robot was the main platform for exposure to robotics and coding languages, specifically Python. Using Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) control I experimented with the line follower sensor to optimize its path tracking. Through web content analysis I looked at pollution data centered around the lockdown period from the first have of this year. This was done in order to explore the reasons behind clear skies that were seen in typically polluted cities.


10:50 a.m.
A Model for Intergalactic Dust and its Impact on the Extragalactic Background Light – Maegan Jennings (Towson University)

Observations of quasar reddening demonstrate that extinction by dust in the intergalactic medium is significant at optical wavelengths, but the impact of this extinction on the spectral intensity of the extragalactic background light (EBL) has not yet been assessed in a quantitative way. We use an interstellar dust extinction model of Weingartner and Draine and combine this with simple but physically reasonable expressions for dust evolution to arrive at an intergalactic dust model with two adjustable parameters. The resulting opacities closely match observational constraints from Imara and Loeb at near-optical wavelengths. We convolve this intergalactic dust model with a simple EBL model (described elsewhere in this meeting) to determine that optical EBL intensity is reduced by approximately 3% due to intergalactic dust. The “missing” light is of course shifted to longer wavelengths. Nevertheless, this result is a partial vindication for H.W.M. Olbers and his predecessor, J.P.L. de Cheseaux, who were the first to speculate that an absorbing medium might help to explain the darkness of the night sky.


11:00 a.m.
Design and Simulation of the Different Nozzle Types for Liquid Propellant Rocket Engine​ – Diego Torres-Siclait (UMBC)

In a liquid propellant rocket engine, mixing and combustion of liquid propellant and oxidizer occurred in the combustion chamber. Based on Newton’s third law, the nozzle increases velocity of hot products into ultrasonic velocity and thrust. Thus, the nozzle design becomes one of the most critical parts to increase thrust and maximize apogee of the liquid fuel rocket. This study is to investigate the performance of different nozzle types by designing, modelling, and simulating them using current mathematical, CAD, and Computational Fluid Dynamics softwares. Results indicated that nozzle design significantly affected velocity and temperature in the combustion chamber. The dual-bell nozzle was proved as a feasible design like conical and bell nozzles.


11:10 a.m.
Nature Inspired Self-Cleaning Surfaces​ – Grace Cunningham (Hagerstown Community College & WVU)

In this presentation, I will be explaining my task of studying Hydrophobic surfaces and my results. With a number of uses, we find that they can also be mimicked for other uses. Because of their micro-structures, we also find that these surfaces are oleophilic.


11:20 a.m.
Designing a Pan & Tilt Camera/Light System ​
for Use on On-Orbit Satellite Servicers​ – Justyn Bunkley (UMBC)

On-Orbit Satellite Servicers are an up-and-coming technology in the field of aerospace. These devices will someday go on to repair and restore many operational satellites in low Earth orbit and beyond. One key component to the success of these servicers is a reliable camera system. While current models use one or more stationary cameras, there are limitations to this design. The person controlling the servicer needs to have a wide field of view of the satellite. Designing a pan and tilt camera/light system that can be mounted on the servicers would overcome these limitations, and significantly increase its overall performance. Using motors, sprockets, rods, and sprocket chains, this system could pan two cameras and two miniature lights 60 degrees left and right, as well as 90 degrees up and down. This would allow the controller to have an enhanced field of view on the satellite using a single camera system.


11:30 a.m.
Early Work on Extra Dimensions by Yuri Rumer – Gregory Kuri (Towson University)

I discuss the life and work of theoretical physicist Yu B. Rumer, a founder of quantum chemistry who also made pioneering contributions to unified field theory based on the idea of extra dimensions (Kaluza-Klein theory). His work remains little known in the West because it was done in captivity in the Soviet gulag, and never translated into English. I summarize some of the key points from our translation of the first two of these articles and discuss the relevance of Rumer’s ideas to modern physics.


11:40 a.m.
MDSGC Internship Review: Dusty Plasma Laboratory​ – Keith Gorschboth (UMBC)

This is a review of the ongoing research at the DPL or dusty plasma laboratory. The DPL is working on a new high energy pulsed plasma experiment for the purpose of achieving nuclear fusion. This presentation reviews my work in designing and simulating the circuitry that the experiment will be using.


11:50 a.m.
CASALS Lidar Instrument Digital Design​ – Harun Gopal (UMCP)

Novel advancements in lidar technology are being developed to aid in the efficient collection of topographical data. Concurrent Artificial Intelligence Spectrometry and Adaptive Lidar Systems (CASALS) presents one such novel technique. This project seeks to aid the development of CASALS by demonstrating, through a proof of concept, the feasibility of the proposed digital design. A Tektronix 710 arbitrary waveform generator (AWG) and a National Instruments(NI) PXI-8800 chassis equipped with PXIe-5764 digitizer module, PXI-6683H GPS and timing module, and PXIe-8267 storage module replicated multiple components inherent to the digital design and allowed full prototyping of the required sections. The AWG functioned to sufficiently replicate a single stream 8:1 multiplexed input waveform so to test the functionality of the final prototype. A field programmable gate array chip (FPGA chip) housed within the NI PXI-8800 chassis controlled the operation of the prototype and was programmed through LabVIEW, a visual coding language, to control the functions of the prototype. The prototype has successfully digitized an input signal; displayed the signal; collected time, velocity, and location data; and stored all the relevant information in a specified data format onto a storage module. Progress was made on effective data reduction and isolation, however wasn’t perfected. The results of this project suggests that the foundation of CASALS digital design has been proven to work, however other avenues of prototyping such as implementing a more complex data storage format to allow for additional types of data to be stored would be beneficial to make a final determination on this subject.


12:00 p.m.
Short Break

Session 2


12:15 p.m.
Making a NASA Logo using Javascript – Ashley Afueh (UMES)

Within the internship, I learned how to code JavaScript moderately. I utilize this skill to recreate the NASA logo using JavaScript.


12:25 p.m.
Calibration and Theoretical Modeling of a Rolling Railgun -Hannah Lee Clark & Taylor Pettaway (Towson University)

We report on a “rolling railgun” demonstration that we are developing as a lab activity for calculus-based introductory electromagnetism classes at Towson University. Current from a 9V battery is passed through an iron axle connecting two cylindrical neodymium magnets which serve as wheels. If properly oriented, the magnetic field of these magnets exerts a continuous torque on the axle, propelling the “rolling railgun” along tinfoil rails at accelerations that can approach 1 g. We calculate this acceleration theoretically and find reasonable agreement with experimental measurements. Animations included!


12:35 p.m.
COVID-19 Predictive Model – Shanice Nurse (UMES)

The staggering death toll related to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a steady decrease in Maryland. Providing a general precise projection about deaths related to COVID-19 will allow citizens to be aware and more cautious in this pandemic. There are different variables that influence the pandemic and response which will assist with the projection data in the forecasting model. The datasets used in this forecasting model is derived from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which forecast data that continues to be refined as the pandemic evolves. This COVID-19 Forecasting Model is intended to assist officials in making decisions about investing in testing, tracing and isolation. Also, individuals will be able to utilize this information which should guide their behavior regarding social distancing.


12:45 p.m.
Design and Analysis of a Liquid Propellant Rocket (LPR)​ — Alexis Burris (UMCP)

Morgan State University is developing a single-stage liquid-fueled rocket that will launch to an altitude of 13,000 feet, in the year 2021. The goal this summer was to create 3D models and 2D drawings in CAD for the full assembly of the rocket. The team divided the rocket into sub-components to properly design each component. The nose cone, airframe, boat tail, and fins were all designed separately to fully optimize every component to reduce drag, pressure, temperature, and many other factors. Each sub-component was carefully designed using multiple software tools to prove the effectiveness of each component.


12:55 p.m.
Dual Multi Streamtube Model for Vertical Axis Wind/Water Turbines​ – Kimberly Frost (CTU & UMBC)

The project focused on the development of a low order Dual Multi-Stream Tube (DMST) model in Matlab that provides accurate data on the power output and efficiency of Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs). The model was used to corroborate Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) data results for a Hybrid-Darrieus-Modified-Savonius (HDMS) turbine design.


1:05 p.m.
Astrophysical applications of the gravito-electromagnetic approximation within general relativity – Ozzy Weinreb (Towson University)

Einstein’s field equations of general relativity reduce in the weak-field, low-velocity limit to a set of four differential equations that are almost identical to Maxwell’s equations for the electromagnetic field. These equations govern the behavior of gravito-electric and gravito-magnetic fields sourced by mass and mass currents. We explore some of the implications in a general way, focusing on dimensional arguments and order-of-magnitude estimates to assess the extent to which astrophysical phenomena in extreme environments (such as jets and accretion disks) can be understood, at least in part, as gravitational analogs of the familiar laws of Ampere, Biot-Savart, Faraday and Lenz, and even as real-world examples of “gravitational transformers” in action.


1:15 p.m.
Feasibility Study for Suspended Aerobic Membrane Bioreactor for Wastewater Treatment in Space – Mattie Hoover (UMGC)

Over the summer 2020 semester, I worked as a NASA intern in the UB-G Exploration Research and Technology Directorate under mentor Dr. Luke Roberson. The goal of the internship was to develop a feasibility study for a new, competitive solution for wastewater treatment that could be utilized for future space exploration. While taking into account conditions unique to interplanetary travel and colonization, the specific idea being justified was a Suspended Aerobic Membrane Bioreactor (SAMBR) to treat low strength wastewater in three mains forms: humidity condensate, urine, and hygiene water. The feasibility study for a SAMBR system relied on the discovery and recording of supporting literature gathered by the intern, which would provide information on what current technology is being utilized for wastewater treatment, details and understanding for how the SAMBR should be designed, and critical foundation material for justifying the development of the SAMBR system.

Each week, the intern would compile and present noteworthy information gathered from peer-reviewed scientific research articles which supplied the background for the development of the SAMBR system. Utilizing systems currently in place on Earth for wastewater treatment, specifically the Modified Ludzack-Ettinger (MLE) process, the team was encouraged to develop a dual-chamber system for treating wastewater in space. Further research into biological systems and interactions supported the installation of a hybrid bacteria-algae biofilm, a system known as Algal-bacterial Symbiosis (ABS), which would grow in a Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR). Through utilizing the ABS, the bioreactor would be able to self-sustain homeostasis and, therefore, eliminate the need for human intervention via the removal of excess biomass. The Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) is a system which utilizes biocarriers that grow suspended biofilms; while suspended, the wastewater is allowed unlimited access to the biofilms which will remove all waste products from the wastewater through biological processes and produce potable water as the end product. Ideally, this system will be fully developed and tested for utilization in the Artemis mission; if successful, this system will ensure safe and reliable interplanetary travel for possible colonization of the moon.


1:25 p.m.
Kilobotics – Mya Thompkins (Morgan State University / UMCP)

This project involved programming a kilo-bot swarm of micro-robots via online simulation, analyzing emergent behavior of individual robots to create a complex system following simple rules.


1:35 p.m.
Braneworld Dark Matter and the Diffuse Gamma-Ray Background – William Mann (Towson University)

We revisit dark-matter candidates that arise in Large Extra Dimensions (LED) or “braneworld” theories, in which additional spacelike dimensions are accessible to gravity, but not to the other interactions of the standard model. As a result, gravitons in these theories are able to carry energy “off the brane” and into the higher-dimensional bulk. Constraints can be placed on the number and size of these dimensions through limits on energy lost from supernovae cores, which eventually contributes to the diffuse gamma-ray background (DGRB). We use new observations of the DGRB from the Fermi-LAT satellite to update existing constraints on the theory.


1:45 p.m.
Closing Remarks

MDSGC offers our sincere congratulations to our student presenters, a huge thanks to our internship mentors, collaborators, and supporting staff, and our hope that all attendees have enjoyed and learned from today’s presentations!

RockOn Workshop – Summer 2021

Screenshot of RockOn 2021 homepage.

RockOn, a workshop at Wallops Flight Facility for sounding rocket payload design, is an exciting chance for teams of students to kickstart payload projects at their home institutions. Participants in the workshop will build a working scientific payload and then see it launch on a real sounding rocket!

MDSGC secures a number of slots for each year’s workshop and encourages Maryland students to submit applications! Make sure you are familiar with the information on the RockOn page, especially the Workshop and Travel details found under the “Information” tab. Then, complete our application below!

Application for RockON Workshop

Application for RockON Workshop

Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident? *
If offered a RockON slot, will you bring a vehicle to RockON, and if so are you willing to carpool with other attendees for transportation between lodgings and the workshop locations? *
Are you interested in a shared hotel room option? *

Mercury on the Face of the Sun: 11/11/19

Image of Mercury in transit across the Sun in 2016, by Elijah Matthews via Wikipedia.com - flipped vertically to emphasize the silhouette of Mercury instead of the sunspot group also present.
Photo credit: 2016 Mercury transit by Elijah Matthews via Wikipedia.com. Image has been flipped vertically.

On November 11, 2019, tiny planet Mercury crossed between Earth and the Sun. Observers fortunate enough to be beneath clear skies on the sunward side of the Earth when this happens could hope to view the celestial conjunction, officially known as a transit. Transits of Mercury occur about a dozen times per century. The most recent was in 2016, and the next is in 2032! (In 2032 the transit will not be visible from North America.)

Mercury is quite small, so eclipse glasses are not sufficient to see it. Properly configured solar binoculars, or ideally a high magnification solar telescope, are needed. Always use caution when observing the Sun!

Thanks to those who came up to join us at the Maryland Space Grant Observatory, as we trained our telescopes to follow the transit from approximately 9:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m. EST. Here is a NASA video showing the full transit:

For more information about the 11/11/2019 Mercury transit, check out this page from NASA JPL or this very detailed page at EclipseWise.com.