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May 19, 1999
QuestChat with Anne Corwin

College Intern/Engineering Aide
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 1 - 10:51:35 ]
Today's QuestChat with engineering assistant and full-time student Anne Corwin will begin in about 40 minutes! Be sure to read Anne's bio before coming to the chat: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/team/corwin.html

[ Anne/ARC - 7 - 11:00:02 ]
RE: [Mrs.Mock/MontessoriSchoolofCorona] The previous chat my students did with you was great. Many listed it as their favorite chat of the year. They enjoy reading your journals and think your job is very exciting. Today, they took time between music and other classes to read your journals, previous chat, and bio to come up with the questions for you. Each group of students read different parts of the written material, so some of these things were already answered, but I submit them all if you want to answer them again.
I really appreciate the chance to share my experiences with kids and teachers; I consider it an honor. Part of me can't believe it: I think, "Why in the world would anyone want to talk to me?" So thank you for taking an interest in the goings-on at NASA and for letting me help convey that to your students. I love answering questions and I have a feeling that after reading some of these responses some students might have more questions! As long as I am here I will be happy to correspond with students.

[ Anne/ARC - 11 - 11:03:02 ]
RE: [David/5thGrade] How does it feel when people think you are 15?
It used to bother me, but now I think it's kind of cool. Most people mean it as a compliment when they say you look young for your age. I used to get VERY upset when people thought I was much younger than I was; I remember one time I went to visit my great-grandmother in a nursing home when I was about 10 and one of the nurses thought I was 7, so I started crying. I guess I thought people would not take me seriously.

[ Anne/ARC - 12 - 11:03:42 ]
RE: [Brian/5thGrade] Did you test the Wright Flyer? What did you do?
The Wright Flyer test was not conducted by any one person--it was a whole team of people working together that made the test possible. Everybody had a different task to perform; some operated the wind tunnel controls, some adjusted parts of the airplane when they needed adjusting, and others tried to figure out the significance of the data as it was being obtained. A lot of the test was spent in meetings, where we all sat around trying to figure out why the results weren't what we expected them to be. One person would offer an idea, and someone else would say, "Yes, but what about this?" It was a great example of cooperative problem-solving. My role in the project was mainly in setting up the Wright Flyer to be tested. I had to figure out how to put together the wires and beams that would be used to lift the Flyer into the tunnel. It was important to make sure the Flyer would hang straight--we didn't want it to pitch forward and crash into the ground! I also had to figure out the angle at which the Flyer would be positioned so that the air from the wind tunnel would be blowing directly at the front of the airplane. While the test was actually going on, I tried to attend all the meetings, and whenever I thought of an idea I'd raise my hand (just like in school!) and offer what I had to say, even though I'm not officially an engineer quite yet. :)

[ Anne/ARC - 13 - 11:04:40 ]
RE: [Martin/5thGrade] How fast did the winds in the wind tunnel go when the Wright Flyer was in there?
The wind blew VERY slowly in the tunnel during this test! (about 30 mph) Generally, the wind speed is over 200 mph, but the models tested in such high wind speeds are not nearly as delicate as the Wright Flyer.

[ Anne/ARC - 17 - 11:05:43 ]
RE: [LaurenandKimber/4thGrade] How many classes did it take for you to get your job at NASA?
It just took me being in school--for a student engineering position, you don't really have to have a certain number of classes completed. I'm in something called the NASA/Ames Internship Program, and its purpose is to show students the type of work they are likely to be doing once they get out of school. I guess being here and doing cool engineering jobs is supposed to motivate us to do better in school and take more classes. But it's not easy to get a job here; you have to apply and then get interviewed. To get this job I was competing with several other students.

[ Anne/ARC - 18 - 11:06:07 ]
RE: [Nick/3rdGrade] Why did you choose your job?
I don't know if I really chose my job; I ended up getting it because I went to a job fair at my school. I was looking for another summer job in addition to my job at the coffee shop that I already had, so I could make some extra money. I saw the NASA booth and I was like, "REALLY? NASA lets STUDENTS work for them???" I never really thought I'd get the job, but I figured it was worth a try, and I ended up getting it!

[ Anne/ARC - 19 - 11:06:44 ]
RE: [Ileana/5thGrade] If you didn't have your job at NASA, what would you choose to do?
If I hadn't gotten this job I'd have probably kept looking for an internship or a job somewhere else where I'd be able to learn about being an engineer. I might have ended up doing more computer-related stuff; this part of California where I live is called "Silicon Valley" because there are so many computers and computer companies here. If I was doing something non high-tech, I might still be making cappuccinos or trying to write science fiction stories and send them into magazines. (Something I'd still like to do someday!)

[ Anne/ARC - 23 - 11:08:37 ]
RE: [Caleb/4thGrade] What classes do you take in college? What other classes have you taken? Are you at Cal Poly now?
At this point I am taking four classes: math, physics (a science class), materials science (another science class), and American Government (like social studies). I like all my classes. My math class is VERY hard, though--my teacher asks a lot of trick questions! But I like the challenge. I have taken a lot of classes in college over the past year and a half or so; if I listed them all here you'd probably get bored. :) I've taken a lot of math and science courses, because those are what you need to concentrate on to become an engineer. But I have also had to take things like English and psychology because colleges want you to know about a wide range of subjects no matter what your job is. I am not at Cal Poly yet; I want to transfer there this coming winter. A lot of kids do what I do: go to a college near their house first and then go to another school to finish their degree. College is very, very expensive, and attending a smaller school first is a good way to save money.

[ Anne/ARC - 24 - 11:09:38 ]
RE: [Amber/6thGrade] Have you ever walked through the wind tunnels? If so was it long?
I've walked through the wind tunnels several times, and they are HUGE! Not only are they long, but they are very, very high as well. One of them has a section that is as big as a football field turned sideways! It is amazing to be inside the tunnels; it's hard to believe people could build something so big. The coolest part for me was being able to walk through the fans. (They weren't running, of course!) The blades are about 10 feet long each, and the thing in the middle that holds all the blades on has a little room in it that you can climb into with a ladder so that you can fix the fan if it is not working properly.

[ Anne/ARC - 25 - 11:10:21 ]
RE: [Michael/3rdGrade] What is the hardest job that you are qualified for?
Whatever my boss says I can do! :) I can basically do anything that does not involve driving or operating dangerous machinery. I have done engineering calculations and computer programming, I have planned and given meetings, and a few other little things. I guess the HARDEST job I am allowed to do is programming. Computers can be tricky, especially when they don't want to do what you want them to! When I get my degree I hope to be able to participate in more projects that offer more responsibility.

[ Anne/ARC - 29 - 11:11:58 ]
RE: [Dave/6thGrade] How do you plan to be smarter than Einstein regarding light speed? Do you have a way to bend space?
Gee, don't I wish! I don't know if one can "plan" to be smarter than Einstein; I think it was Thomas Edison that said, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration". This means that in order to accomplish something big that people will think is amazing for years to come you have to work very hard, not necessarily be the smartest person in the world. I believe that it is just as possible for human beings to accomplish faster-than-light travel or its equivalent as it is for us to do anything else. So many things that have been thought impossible have already taken place--human flight, for instance. When locomotive trains first started being built, doctors warned that such rapid speeds would cause human blood to boil! (And the first trains probably only went about 30 mph!) The majority of people in every generation think that science has been established, that Mankind "knows" all the laws of nature and their limits. Yet there are always a few scientists who refuse to give up. And another law of science comes into being. If I could do anything with my life it would be to prove something is possible that has always been thought impossible. I don't know how I would go about achieving very rapid speeds, but there are several theories out there, and more are being developed every day.

[ Anne/ARC - 30 - 11:12:20 ]
RE: [Jason/5thGrade] What is your degree?
I'm working on my degree right now; I don't actually have it yet. This job will hopefully assist me in getting my degree.

[ Anne/ARC - 31 - 11:14:03 ]
RE: [Matt/4thGrade] How many classes do you take now?
I am taking four classes right now, plus working here at NASA. But that's not all I do--I still have to help out with chores at home (things like vacuuming, mowing the lawn, cleaning the bathroom) and help take care of my brothers and sisters. I have a big family--I'm the oldest of 5 kids! I'm 20 years old now, and I have a 17-year old brother, a 13-year old sister, an 8-year old sister and a 6-year old brother, so our house is pretty full! We also have a cat named "Kitty", a fish with no name, and a hamster named Butterscotch. I know that wasn't directly related to your question, but I thought you might find it interesting.

[ Anne/ARC - 35 - 11:15:29 ]
RE: [Danielle/6thGrade] Why exactly do you use the oscilloscope?
Oscilloscopes are useful for showing how different types of signals look. Generally, if you are getting information about how something is behaving (say, how an airplane is vibrating in the wind tunnel) you can hook up wires to whatever you are trying to observe the behavior of and the signal will feed into the oscilloscope. You can look at the pattern on the screen and make sure the airplane (or whatever) is doing what you want it to. In my physics class at school, we used the oscilloscope to view sound waves--we hooked one up to a stretched guitar string and plucked the string--a picture of the sound waves appeared on the scope.

[ Anne/ARC - 36 - 11:15:56 ]
RE: [Ashley/5thGrade] How long did it take to build the Wright Flyer replica?
The Wright Flyer team took about 18 years to build the replica, but they weren't working on it nonstop the whole time. My boss (Pete Zell) says that they worked on it one or two days a week over those 18 years.

[ Anne/ARC - 37 - 11:16:35 ]
RE: [Chris/4thGrade] How big is the Wright Flyer?
From wing tip to wing tip, the Flyer is 40 ft., 4 inches long. From nose to tail, the airplane is 21 ft. 1 inch. The airplane weighs about 650 pounds--less than half of what a small car weighs!

[ Anne/ARC - 41 - 11:18:30 ]
RE: [Andy/4thGrade] What part of the Wright Flyer did you build?
I didn't build any part of the Wright Flyer--though that would have been fun to help out with! I just helped test it. They started building it around the time I was born, and it was finished a few years before it was tested here at NASA.

[ Anne/ARC - 42 - 11:18:55 ]
RE: [Danny/4thGrade] How big is the part you built?
I wish I could have built some part, but by the time I "met" the Wright Flyer it was already built. I guess you could say I helped build the equipment they used to lift the airplane into the wind tunnel, but I really just helped design it, and didn't actually bolt, screw, or nail anything together. I DID have to test bolts and things to make sure they would fit, though.

[ Anne/ARC - 43 - 11:19:32 ]
RE: [Leslie/4thGrade] What is an oscilloscope?
Have you ever seen the Disney movie Fantasia? On the beginning they have a part where a man is explaining how sound can be seen as a picture. They show a screen from an oscilloscope on that part of the movie. If you haven't seen Fantasia, you might have seen shows on TV about doctors and hospitals; they sometimes show a screen hooked up to a person's brain or heart. The screen has lines on it that go up and down to show the signal that part of the body is sending out. That's kind of like an oscilloscope; an oscilloscope is mainly a device that lets people see things that can't usually be seen, like a sound or a vibration.

[ Anne/ARC - 47 - 11:21:15 ]
RE: [Randy/4thGrade] What kind of scientific knowledge do you have?
Not nearly as much as I would like to have! I suppose the kind of knowledge I have is the kind that is taught in school and picked up from observing the world around me. Both go together. In terms of the subjects I know most about, I know a pretty good amount of stuff about electricity and space, since those are the subjects that interest me the most. Everything in the universe (we think) is made out of the same stuff deep down. People could not think if there was no electricity in their brains. I like electronics, too--I have an amateur radio license (my call sign is KB1AME) that I got when I was in 6th grade. You may have heard of amateur radio . . . it's basically a radio with which you can broadcast voice or Morse code to people and talk to people all over the world--even to astronauts! In order to get this license I had to learn Morse code and take a test about antennas and radios and things. I feel like I probably know next to nothing compared to all the knowledge that it actually out there, but I'm trying to learn as much as possible.

[ Anne/ARC - 48 - 11:22:00 ]
RE: [Amber/5thGrade] When did the Wright Brothers build their first plane?
The Wright Brothers built a glider with no engine in 1902 that could fly, but not very far. The airplane they are famous for--the replica of which was tested in the NASA wind tunnel--was built in 1903.

[ Anne/ARC - 49 - 11:22:53 ]
RE: [Leslie/4thGrade] How do you feel that you helped build the Wright Flyer? What was it like to work on that project?
I am very happy that I got to work on the Wright Flyer project. NASA's role in this project was not to build the airplane, though--we just had to test it. It was already built by the time it arrived here from Southern California. After something is built it must be tested, though--what good is a model if it doesn't work? It was fun working on the project; I felt lucky to be able to learn so much and meet so many interesting people at this point in my life and education. It was neat to see people working together to solve problems. The people from the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) were all full of cool stories. One of them even met one of the Wright Brothers!

[ Anne/ARC - 54 - 11:24:05 ]
RE: [Adam/5thGrade] Do you ever send these probes in space?
Me personally? No, but NASA does. I would like to learn more about space probes--especially those that go to other planets. If I had the chance to go into space I'd do it in minute, but in the meantime it's interesting to see what the probes can come up with.

[ Anne/ARC - 55 - 11:24:46 ]
RE: [Neeraj/4thGrade] What influenced you to join this interesting job?
I don't remember ever NOT wanting to work at NASA--it's been a dream of mine since I was probably in kindergarten. I don't know what influenced me in the first place; it was probably TV, actually, because my dad was always watching Star Trek and I really liked it for some reason. As I was growing up I loved to read science fiction books and also regular science books and magazines. (I liked "Discover", "Popular Science", and "Scientific American," and I still try to read these when I get the chance.) Even if I didn't always understand what I was reading, I still got a feeling of amazement at what people were able to do and how exciting the Universe was. Though I haven't been working on space probes or searching for aliens here at NASA, it's still a dream come true to be able to work somewhere where scientific knowledge is the reason for its existence.

[ Anne/ARC - 56 - 11:25:42 ]
RE: [Mrs.Mock/MontessoriSchoolofCorona] Does NASA assist you with tuition costs? How much does a typical semester in college cost you (including books and everything)? Will you continue towards a higher degree after you complete your electrical engineering requirements?
NASA only assists me with tuition in that I am paid for working here. (Actually, I am not on the payroll of the Federal Government, but on the payroll for my school--I'm technically a contractor employee.) While I am attending two-year school, tuition is relatively inexpensive; my school is on the quarter system, and I pay about $450-$500 per quarter for books and tuition. I would like to continue toward a higher degree; actually, I've always had this idea in my head that when I'm in my fifties or so I'll have a PhD in physics and be doing weird research in a laboratory somewhere. :)

[ Anne/ARC - 57 - 11:27:31 ]
RE: [Mrs.Mock/MontessoriSchoolofCorona] Steve Jaeger mentioned a time when a owl got into the wind tunnel during testing. Were you there then? Do you have any other interesting wind tunnel stories like this one to tell?
No, I was not there when the owl got in, but I have heard many distressed NASA personnel complaining about pigeons being in the tunnel! (They tend to like to go to the bathroom on the models, which doesn't make anybody very happy!) I thought this was pretty funny because here we are in this high-tech place and people are worrying about pigeons! There are nets and screens over the air intake and output sections of the tunnel, but somehow birds (and bats!) manage to get in from time to time.


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