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UPDATE #64 - May 12, 1999

PART 1: Upcoming Chat
PART 2: Project News
PART 3: Adding a Degree of Uncertainty
PART 4: Subscribing & Unsubscribing: How to do it


QuestChats require pre-registration. Unless otherwise noted, registration
is at:  http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/chats/#chatting

Wednesday, May 19, 1999, 11:30 AM Pacific Daylight Time:
Anne Corwin, engineering assistant

In addition to being an intern and a full-time student, Anne assists the
staff of the 40x80- and 80x120-foot wind tunnels with anything they need
help with. Since July, Anne has been working on a large-scale software
development project. She is constructing a program in that will allow
customers and users of the wind tunnels to set up and plan out their tests
in an entirely electronic format.
Read Anne Corwin's profile and field journals prior to joining this chat.


(This message went out to the Space Team Online List from Linda Conrad but
we have the same problem at Aerospace Team Online.)

I was a teacher for 10 years (not too long ago) and I understand that as
the school year winds down, your time is not necessarily your own. To name
just a few impositions on your time: assemblies get called at what seems
like the spur of the moment, parents become suddenly anxious to discuss
their student's progress (before it gets documented on the report card!),
and packing up your things before summer school invades your classroom can
keep you so preoccupied that you don't even have time to get excited over
the vacation time you've planned. So if you're a teacher, I'm definitely
in your corner and understand.

What I have trouble understanding and really could use your help with is
this: We have continued a rich chat schedule thanks to the efforts of
QuestChat Project Manager Oran Cox, and Sandy Dueck. Each chat has been
replete with registrants, but for all too many chats in the last few
months, at the time designated, no one has shown up. As you may
understand, this puts us in a very awkward situation. We've reserved an
hour of a very busy NASA expert's time to chat with "our kids" and no kids
come. So far the experts have been gracious and rescheduled.

I know teachers to be very considerate people who very aware of the value
of time to a busy person, yet even when we write asking, "What happened?"
we've gotten no response. We are frankly stymied and open to any
suggestions you can give regarding solutions. We certainly do not want to
lose the enthusiastic support we've gotten from our team members, yet we
remain aware that the YOU are the reason we set these chats up. When a
classroom signs up, and doesn't show, they potentially exclude another
classroom that might have been there. We cannot leave chats with unlimited
registration if we hope to satisfy our customer (the students) with a
personal response to their question from a NASA expert. Please help us to
remedy the situation so that these valuable interactions may continue.
Respond with helpful suggestions directly to Oran at

[Editor's Note:Anne Corwin is an intern in Pete Zell's office. Read her bio at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/team/corwin.html ]

Adding a Degree of Uncertainty

by Anne Corwin

May 12, 1999

Well, I guess my last journal was NOT the final chapter.  Since the Wright
Flyer test ended, all kinds of things have been going on at NASA and as
usual I've tried to get myself in on as many of them as possible.

One of my new projects is actually related to the Wright Flyer, but may
end up having other applications as well.  I'm learning a new programming
language based on graphics.  There is a program called LabVIEW that is
used here at NASA to collect and evaluate data from wind tunnel tests.
It's really neat; I wish I could show the program to all of you so you
could get a clearer picture of what I am talking about.  I'll try to
explain it as best I can.  If you have ever used a drawing program, you
have probably seen a tool bar or box over on the side of the screen where
you can choose different "art supplies".  Well, in LabVIEW there is a
blank screen (at first) and a tool bar but instead of having art tools it
has things like plus and minus signs, little boxes to put numbers in, and
charts that you can put your own data into.  If you want to add two
numbers, you "connect" them to the back of a plus sign and connect an
empty box to the front of the plus sign.  When you click on an arrow that
runs the program, the sum of those two numbers appears in the box.  You
connect all the program elements with something called a "wiring tool".
It's basically like connecting wires in real life, only it's on a screen.

(number goes in)------> 1--
                                    |  + -- 3   <-----(sum appears here)
(number goes in)------> 2--

Of course, most of the uses of this program at NASA are more complicated
than adding one and two, but I thought that would be a good example by
which to clarify the nature of the program.  What I am working on is a
program that will search through the data obtained from the Wright Flyer
test (angle, force, velocity, and pressure readings, etc.) and then show
what would happen if a degree of uncertainty was added to a measurement.

Uncertainty is a very important thing to keep in mind when dealing with
scientific data of any sort.  When you get a reading from a machine, you
want to know that the information you are getting is actually the
information you are seeking.  For instance, if you were seeing how fast a
person could ride on a bike, you wouldn't just take their speed no matter
what the situation was and say that you had accurate data.  Someone would
appear to be able to ride faster if they were going downhill and/or the
wind was blowing them along.  The wind and the slope of the hill would be
sources of uncertainty in this case, because they make it difficult to
tell what the person's actual riding ability is.  This program I am
working on will allow different sources of uncertainty to be put into the
Wright Flyer data, so we can see how the data we actually got might have
been affected by such things.  Since the AIAA is actually trying to build
a replica that will fly, it is crucial to be as careful as possible when
figuring out what the data obtained during the NASA wind tunnel test

        In addition to my data analysis program, I am also continuing to
work on my database program that I have been doing since last July.  I am
also working on a team that is putting together a CD-ROM about the NASA
wind tunnels so that people who might want to test their technology here
can get an idea of what we have to offer.  It's fun working on teams that
do projects--talking about the ideas and watching them come together.  I
never thought I'd enjoy making flow charts, but here I have one huge one
sitting on my desk that is almost as big as I am (well, I'm actually
pretty short, but still...), and I'm quite happy with it.  It's so cool to
see something on paper exactly the way I had it structured in my head...it
really helps with planning.  And of course it makes me feel that I'm
somehow contributing to the order in the Universe. :)

        I am still going to school (of course) and this quarter I am
taking calculus (there are 5 classes in calculus and I'm in the fourth),
Properties of Materials (a class in which you learn about metals,
plastics, and other materials: what they are made of, what they are used
for, what are their strengths and weaknesses), Physics 4C (the third level
of physics out of four), and American Government.  I've been having a lot
of tests lately: one last Thursday, one Monday, and two today.  Tonight is
my last one for a while and though I enjoy the challenge it will be nice
to have the tests over with.  I'm getting pretty excited because I'm
almost done at the school I go to now: De Anza College.  De Anza only has
classes for the first two years of college, so in order to finish my
degree I'll have to transfer into a four-year college.  I would like to do
that this coming winter.  Once I transfer I will be living away from home,
which I have never done before.  A little scary but quite exciting.  It's
amazing how time goes by so quickly; I guess I never really believed I'd
become a "grownup".  I always felt (and still feel) so young.  However,
I've talked to people in their seventies who claim to feel like teenagers,
so I'm sure my feeling is pretty normal. :)

Well, that's it for now but I promise I'll try to write more.  I'm
supposed to do a chat on Wednesday, May 19 at 11:30 AM, so if anyone has
any more specific questions or just want to say "hi", please sign up and
drop in!  I love answering people's questions and talking about what I do
here.  Hope to see you there!


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