Big Blue V: Mars Exploration as a Focus for Aerospace Workforce Development

  • Smith, Suzanne (PI)
  • Bailey, Stephen (CoI)
  • Smith, William (CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Abstract The objective of the final phase of the BIG BLUE program is to positively impact the development of NASA's future workforce by establishing sustainable opportunities for students and faculty based on the successes of the first years of the BIG BLUE inflatable-wing Mars airplane project. Included in this final phase of the program is the culminating flight experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of inflatable wings for Mars exploration and efforts to expand and to sustain the opportunities for workforce development and public outreach. The BIG BLUE project involves undergraduate students in a unique opportunity to experience the excitement of research and development of a complex aerospace system including state-of-the-art technology and interaction with aerospace industry professionals. In essence, students join the aerospace workforce while participating in this project, influencing their decision to choose and pursue an aerospace career when such a choice is less likely without their involvement. Four overlapping and complimentary efforts comprise the final two years of the BIG BLUE program: I) BB4: low-density aircraft development and flight testing, 2) BB4: autonomous technology development for student UAV competitions, 3) BBV: the culminating balloonlaunched inflatable-wing Mars airplane flight experiment and 4) BBV: expanding the impact of the BIG BLUE multi-disciplinary Mars exploration R&D project as a focus for aerospace workforce development. The first two efforts are underway with significant accomplishments in 2006. A separate proposal will be submitted for the BBV: Final Flight Experiment. This proposal is for the fourth effort to synthesize the experiences of the prior successful years of the BIG BLUE project into large-impact extension and outreach products. The first is a workshop for faculty, administrators or anyone interested in implementing large multidisciplinary capstone design projects including a focus on systems engineering. The target date for a pilot offering is Summer 2006. The second is the development and editing of documentary videos produced in partnership with the UK Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments implementing an internship program for media/communications students. Final video products will be targeted for student recruiting, as well as for the general public via broadcast on Kentucky Educational Television and the cable Research Channel. The third effort is development of a permanent display of the BBII wings and aircraft for the Kentucky Aviation Museum. These have been on display as part of the Smithsonian Museum Extreme Textiles Exhibit currently scheduled to end in August 2006. Finally, modifications to the "Learn-to-Fly" hands-on workshop offered previously to K-12 students will increase the learning experience. The new workshop will be used (and further revised) with the BB5 students working on the final flight experiment. With the completion of these products, a wide audience will be introduced to the excitement of the aerospace industry. The faculty workshop will expand the impact of what was learned during BIG BLUE. The videos, learn-to-fly workshops and the museum display will continue after the BIG BLUE Mars Airplane development effort is concluded, therefore exposing younger students to aerospace opportunities and continuing the successful BIG BLUE aerospace workforce development.
Effective start/end date6/1/067/31/08


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