May 19, 1999
QuestChat with Anne Corwin
College Intern/Engineering Aide
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
- 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
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
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
[ 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.