24 June 2007

MTPE Day 8 & 9

Today was the best yet! We got to fly airplanes this morning. It was so awesome. I have not flown in about 18 years (I mean actually piloted a plane). The last time I did I was in the Navy and I soloed for the first time. Our instructor asked if anyone had any experience and I told him that I did, but it had been a very long time. He let me take off and actually navigate to Lindsey. I told him that I would prefer not to fly in the pattern and wanted him to do and he was cool with that. We had passengers and so I thought it would be best for them if I didn't actually land the plane, but it was better left to Chase's capable hands. This guy just commissioned with the Army and is waiting on a billet for flight school. He was a great, patient instructor. He encouraged me to get back into flying. I have given it a lot of thought and will probably try to figure a way to do that as soon as it is fiscally possible. That may be a very long time from now. That was all we did on Friday, but it was great to spend some time in the air again. If we had waited another 30 minutes, we probably would have had to wait out some weather, as it was quickly deteriorating to IFR conditions towards the end of our flight.
Saturday was just an award time and evaluation time. It was basically an hour of signing thank you cards, and almost not worth the drive to Norman. Oh well, it's over and I am a different person for having attended the workshop. It was great to get some ideas for my classroom and the opportunity to fly. Thanks NASA Space Grant Consortium for the opportunity! Pictures of me as Pilot in Command are coming soon!

21 June 2007

MTPE Day 7

Day 7 is in the books. We visited the National Weather Center in Norman, OK this morning. It was, possibly, the most interesting thing we have done all week. Can you say Masters in Meteorology? Oh man, that would be awesome!

The National Weather Service Building here is an extension of the OU School of Meteorology. They are housed in a Federal Building sharing joint custody of it. We started our tour at the top of the building and worked our way down. It was interesting to see the pecking order in the building with the seniors and graduate students on the top, juniors on the next floor down, and so on. I was amazed at the sheer amount of technology crammed into that building. They have a false floor between each floor simply for networking. We got to see the Federal part of the building where they issued every type of warning and watch for the contiguous United States. All from one room! We also saw the room where the Oklahoma WS conducts their operations as well. We saw new technology that is barely even in the field, as far as instrumentation is concerned. We sa
w some new sonar they are testing that is simply upward looking sonar to help with weather forecasting. The most amazing thing about the school is that the students get to go out into the field to conduct research. Not just graduate students either, I mean every student! I must say, there are so many disciplines here at OU in which one could be interested. Which one to choose? I mean I only have one life, there are a limited amount of degrees I can learn!

On the pictures below, notice how much glass is in the building. The entire southwest side of the building is glass. Guess which way the predominant severe weather patterns are in Oklahoma? This place is state of the art, as you can see from the pictures, they moved into the building in September of 2006. Everything, and I mean everything in this place is nice!

National Weather Service, Norman Oklahoma.

"Total Understanding of the Sky", the apparent motto of the NWS.

Upward looking sonar to map the atmosphere. This is actually in a classroom...of course that is an instrumentation classroom and it's outside!

The National Weather Service forecast room

A Mobile command post, where the fun really happens!

19 June 2007

MTPE Day 6

Today was a low-key day. I think everyone was glad of that. We have all been rather tired at day's end the past week. The classes are just the type that make you tired at the end of the day. Some days are long and that doesn't help either. We simply worked today on web-based resources for teaching aerospace type education in our classrooms. We are giving presentations tomorrow over a particular subject of our own choosing.

I have chosen to present Stellarium to the teachers I am in class with. I think it is a great tool for any age student. I presented last year at National Science Teacher's Association conference in Salt Lake City about this program. It is a free program available here. Basically, it is a planetarium program you can use in your classroom or home to see what the sky would look like from any location on Earth or within the Solar System, on any date in history or the future. More about it tomorrow.

I basically just browsed the web today looking at the possibility of starting a Civil Air Patrol squadron at the school. It looks like a lot of work, so I probably won't be doing that any time soon. I have to get my "teaching legs" under me before I take on any type of extra curricular activity. It seems like it would be interesting and fun, though.

Here is a screen shot from Stellarium. Go download it and start looking at the night sky today!

MTPE Day 5

Monday morning and we are talking aeronautics! I love aerospace education. I have long held the dream of being a pilot. Either private, military, or otherwise. Some of you may or may not know that, but my initial plans out of high school were to finish college and then return to the Navy to be a pilot. Fortunately, I married the most wonderful woman in the world, and my eyes are now too bad to be a military pilot. So, I guess things worked out for the best!

Anyway, we did a mini ground school today. In case you don't know, ground school is the initial phase or education part of becoming a pilot. We talked about how you find out about the weather. We talked about how to plan a trip. We learned about fuel consumption and how to figure it. We found out about how to find our true ground speed based on winds aloft forecasts and then how to re-calculate it based on our actual winds once we are airborne. Now I can't imagine taking out that gigantic chart in the cockpit of a small aircraft, but I guess you do what you've got to do.

The real question here is when do we get to fly? That comes on Friday and I will definitely have pictures of me in the left seat of a Piper Warrior.

This is a picture of the type of aircraft we will be doing orientation flights in on Friday.

18 June 2007

MTPE Day 4

Yes, I know, it's Sunday and I should be in church, but at about 10 am this morning, we went to the big field next to the Lloyd Noble center and launched some model rockets. These were A, B, and C engines. The very first one we shot off went on top of Lloyd Noble! It was awesome. This will become a part of my classroom, but probably only in the 1/2 A or A engine size. That could be done in a small area like a part of Dolese Park. I also plan to use fizz rockets, but only in the two stage mode. That should be a blast. Especially with minimal instruction.

Today was great because I got a lot of great ideas for things to do in the classroom. It was also difficult because I didn't get back to the hotel until after 10 o'clock, not to mention the fact that in some of the material given to us at the Omniplex the math was WRONG! Now when someone is giving you stuff for free, do you start pointing out things that are wrong with it? So now, I have to tell all of the teachers in my class that there is a problem with the math on the sheets we were given. Leave it to Jody to be the arse who has to be sure every thing is right...

MTPE Day 3

Rockets, rockets, and more rockets. That's what today was all about. We talked about integrating rocketry into the curriculum, we built fizz rockets, straw rockets, and balloon rockets, and then we built some "real" model rockets. It was a blast! I think this will definitely influence my curriculum, at least in my conceptual physics class. Kids always love aviation and rocketry, so if I can actually teach something while I am "having fun with the students", why not?

I must say that on most rockets, I did have the highest altitude on the little rockets, at least. :) Is it wrong to blow your own horn every now and then?

15 June 2007

MTPE Day 2

Day 2 is over already! Today was an adventure. We spent the morning at the National Geological Survey in Norman. Who knew there was such an interesting place here in the home of the Sooners? We got to see (literally) tons and tons and tons of rock. This place is a warehouse in which core samples of rock drilled for oil and natural gas wells are drilled. People come and look at these core samples years after stuff is drilled. There are also samples from 43 states other than Oklahoma. We also got to see an x-ray machine, developed by an engineer, in house, that they use to examine rock and see just what it looks like on the inside of the core, without doing any type of destructive testing. It was fascinating! I could have spent an hour or more longer there, just talking with the people who are employed there.

Lunch was Raising Cane chicken, which was outstanding. I'm not sure it's better than Popeye's, but it was delicious.

After our meal, we moved on to a really cool place called Geoeye, formerly Space Imaging Inc. I was so impressed by the professionalism exhibited by these folks I just can't say enough. We got to see exactly how images are received from satellites. These guys sit, all day, and track satellites that are moving at a velocity of roughly 7 km per second. For you non metric people, that's around 15,000 mph. Pretty amazing. They have satellites that have a resolution of less than 1 meter! This from over 640 km in space. That means that the optics on this thing are good enough to resolve an object of a size of less than one meter from a distance of 640,000 meters away. That is equivalent to being able to recognize a refrigerator from a distance of around 400 miles away! Maybe I should call my mother-in-law in Louisiana and have her move her fridge outside and see if I can see it from Oklahoma. That's roughly the same thing. This place was literally bursting with physics! Optics, kinematics, rotational kinematics, gravity, holy cow! How do I get a job there?!? Again, I could have literally spent a whole day here, but sadly we had to go after only a few hours. Some people in the group were bored and actually fell asleep, but I couldn't get enough.

Tomorrow begins our Rocketry cycle, so that should be a good time. Here are a few pictures from this afternoon; sadly
my batteries were down in the camera this morning.

This one is part of our group standing near one of the dishes used to receive information from the satellite. As you can see, it's pretty big...roughly 30 feet across. Good engineering here to get this thing to work. It tracks the spacecraft as it moves from horizon to horizon.

This is a very small portion of the tons and tons of equipment they use to track and obtain information from these satellites. This company is a private company, but the government uses them extensively, particularly in the area of agriculture. Some of their satellites are owned by India, they just pay them for time on their bird.

MTPE Day 1

Day 1 is over. In the past. I now know a little about remote sensing. What is remote sensing? Well I am glad you asked. It is simply viewing objects with some sort of device that is not in close proximity to the object. It primarily has to do with satellites and aerial photography. It is super interesting!

One of the issues with remote sensing we focused on was why scientists use false color images. Scientists use false color images so that things like green-growing vegetation will show up better. Vegetation of this nature is usually shown in red to contrast with the surrounding area better than different shades of green would.

Another issue we discussed was the distance away you are from an object. It's kind of like the "goldilocks principle" we talk discuss when referring to our planet and why there is life on it. We are just the right distance away, at just the right speed, etc. In remote sensing, you need to be just the right distance away, at the right time of day (lighting), etc. Depending on your usage, you may need a close up view or a larger field of view. You might want your picture taken at noon with no shadows (agriculture) or you might prefer that your image be done earlier in the morning so that you can have shadows and contrast. While we were looking at images, my astronomy knowledge came in handy in that we had to look at the picture and decide what time of day (length of shadows) and what time of year (direction of shadows) were represented in the image. My two elementary teachers at my table were really glad they were with me since I was able to draw the same conclusions as the presenter, thereby making us look extremely intelligent! :)

We also briefly covered pixels. What they are, what the do, how you can see color in your television, and why you want the highest number of pixels in your new HD television and your digital camera. Much of this I knew, but I didn't really know how to incorporate it into the curriculum. Now I do!

I came away with some great posters and pictures to put up in my classroom. One is a nighttime view of the Earth. It is going to be laminated and find a place of prominence near my desk. Awesome!

For more details on Remote Sensing, check out this website.

Preview of Day 2: trip to the National Geological Service, choice of a place in Oklahoma to have a map printed, and I can't remember what else. Check back later for more details.

12 June 2007


Mission to Planet Earth starts tomorrow. I couldn't be more excited. I have looked at an itinerary and it is going to be awesome! There will be satellites, airplanes, and rockets. It is going to be a blast! I will do my dead level best to post something everyday. I may even have some pictures to post as I will be taking my camera. I am going to be with science teachers who are of like mind and interests (science). 10, 9, 8, 7...

06 June 2007

Feeling like a teacher

Syllabus. Just one word. What could be hard about it? It sounds so easy. In reality, it is actually quite difficult. I just have to write a syllabus, probably just 3 or 4 pages long that will outline my entire year. Well, actually just half of the year. We are on block scheduling, so I get to start over at the half way point. It's like having 2 first years. Awesome! So anyway, how do I write this thing when I don't even know for sure what I am supposed to cover in the course? Here's the problem: there are two sections of AP Physics C, mechanics and electricity/magnetism. The college board recommends that block scheduled classes only cover one section per semester. I can't get an answer from my people. So what do I include in the syllabus?

I think it is time to make a command decision and go forward with only C-mechanics. That way, if I can cover more, I will. If I cannot, I won't. I think in reality the way it will happen is pre-AP will be the mechanics and AP will be the electricity/magnetism. Regular physics will simply be a Physics B course. I guess I will be teaching 3 AP classes, not regular, pre, and AP. It is indeed a daunting task. Am I up to the challenge? I'm not sure, I simply have to do the best I can and hope for success. I know I won't live up to my expectations, so I will constantly be pushing myself towards better and better results.

02 June 2007


I was sitting at dinner with my wife the other night and came to a major realization: I am going to be responsible for the education of at least 60 students; specifically in the area of physics. Even Advanced placement. For some reason, that thought is a bit scary right now. I am trying to write a syllabus for the AP course. I actually have to write and submit one so that my students can have the letters AP on their transcript. I'm not sure why that even matters since it is the score on their test that makes a difference. If they make a good score, who cares what their transcript says, right?
So here I am trying to figure out what to do. I feel as if I have no idea where to start. I mean, I know the subject, but where do I start? It's much harder than I thought.