Skip to main content

Physics & Astronomy

2011 Microgravity Team

The Carthage Microgravity Team conducted research for NASA aboard a zero-gravity aircraft in Spring 2011 as part of NASA’s Systems Engineering Educational Discovery program. SEED pairs NASA researchers with undergraduate student teams to design, build and conduct experiments essential to NASA goals.

Led by Carthage physics professor Kevin Crosby and NASA research engineer Rudy Werlink, the students designed and built a method of measuring propellant mass in zero gravity. The experiment investigated a method to measure propellant mass in real time using non-invasive PZT technology. “We used sound waves to determine how much fluid is in a tank,” explained team leader Kimberly Schultz, ’12.

“It's kind of like an extreme roller coaster. In a matter of seconds, you're floating in the middle of the air.” — Stephanie Finnvik ‘12“It's kind of like an extreme roller coaster. In a matter of seconds, you're floating in the middle of the air.” — Stephanie Finnvik ‘12The team traveled to the Johnson Space Center and Ellington Field in Houston March 31-April 9, 2011, to test their fuel gauge aboard the microgravity aircraft G-Force One. G-Force One is a modified Boeing 727 that flies a series of parabolic arcs over the Gulf of Mexico to simulate zero, lunar and Martian gravity.

“It’s a great feeling,” said team member Stephanie Finnvik, ’12, of Brooklyn Park, Minn. “It’s kind of like an extreme roller coaster, because when you go up, you experience 2G, which is like sitting on top of yourself and trying to do a push-up at the same time. And then in a matter of five seconds, you’re floating in the middle of the air.”

This is the fourth consecutive year that Carthage has been selected for the SEED program. In past years, Carthage students have studied lunar dust filtration systems, angles of repose in lunar gravity, and propellant slosh in the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. Carthage was one of nine schools nationwide chosen to participate this year.

The 2011 team members were: Kim Schultz, ’12, of Genoa City, Wis. (team lead); Amber Bakkum, ’12, of Winthrop Harbor, Ill. (team co-lead); KelliAnn Anderson, ’14, of Cumberland, Wis.; Stephanie Finnvik, ’12, of Brooklyn Park, Minn.; Cecilia Grove, ’11, of Walcott, Iowa; Steven Mathe, ’13, of Wauconda, Ill.; Erin Gross, ’12, of Madison, Wis.; and Danielle Weiland, ’14, of Kenosha, Wis.

The students mastered a variety of skills through their work for the SEED program, said Prof. Crosby. “Most importantly they learned to do a thorough engineering analysis. In our physics introductory sequence, they learn all these things, but it’s a bit abstract. Here, for the first time, in a really important and interesting context, they learned to apply these ideas and principles.”

Mr. Werlink said the project was a success. “The result was exactly what we wanted to learn,” he said. “I was very happy that we got our objectives accomplished. When I talk to other people in NASA, I tell them how well this worked out. I didn’t tell Kevin (Crosby) how to do this stuff; I threw out some ideas and he picked it up and got the students to work independently, which really impressed me.

“Some of the teams (in SEED) see the program differently,” he continued. “They have some science basis for what they’re doing, but it’s something simple, and getting a zero-G experience is the whole point. This project was 100 percent not that way. It had real work, real science, real engineering. Even if it didn’t work, I would have been happy that the students tried that hard to make it work. Hopefully the team will apply for the program again next year. I’ll definitely be looking for their proposal.”

Related stories:

Microgravity Team members invited to watch NASA’s final shuttle launch
Read the students’ blog from the trip


Friday, April 1
This Year’s Experiment

The SEED program pairs NASA researchers with teams of college students to conduct research important to NASA. In previous years, the Carthage Microgravity Team has studied lunar dust filtration systems, angles of repose under lunar gravity, and propellant slosh in the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.

This year the team is working with NASA research engineer Rudy Werlink to design, build and test a zero-gravity fuel gauge. Led by Werlink and faculty mentor Kevin Crosby, they have designed a way to measure fuel volume using non-invasive PZT sensors and actuators. “We’re using sound waves to determine how much fluid is in a tank,” said team lead Kim Schultz, ’11, of Genoa City, Wis. More…


Monday, April 4
Anti-Motion Sickness Briefing gives tips for feeling good

“Anything that you do up there that’s distracting you from your science is not going to be helpful,” said lead reduced gravity flight test director Dominic Del Rosso, as he kicked off the Anti-Motion Sickness Briefing Monday afternoon. “But the reputation is a lot worse than reality. About 10 percent of first-time flyers get sick.”

Whatever you do, don’t panic. Don’t “swim.” Don’t kick or flail. “That’s not effective at all. More…


Monday, April 4
Fitted for Flight

Stephanie Finnvik cannot control her excitement. She doesn’t even try. As the team’s only student who flew last year, she knows exactly what she’s getting into. And she cannot wait.

“I got to fly last year,” says Stephanie, ’12, of Brooklyn Park, Minn. “Today we actually had a little bit of a briefing about flying and I just couldn’t help but think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really happening again.’ It’s just a great feeling. It’s kind of like an extreme roller coaster because you go up, you experience 2G — which is like sitting on top of yourself and trying to do a push-up at the same time — and then in a matter of five seconds, you’re floating in the middle of the air. One finger pushed against the wall shoots you across to the other. More…


Tuesday, April 5
The First Flight

The G-Force One microgravity aircraft took off from Ellington Field in Houston at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 4, carrying three Carthage students and their NASA mentor.

After six days at Ellington — and almost six months of preparation — the students were finally doing what they came to NASA to do: Fly their experiment in zero gravity. Amber Bakkum, Erin Gross and Kim Schultz, along with NASA research engineer Rudy Werlink, flew aboard G-Force One, a zero-gravity aircraft. More…


Tuesday, April 5
Meeting NASA Astronaut Clayton Anderson

Carthage students had the opportunity to meet NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson on Tuesday, April 5, a highlight of the 10-day trip in Houston.

Anderson has logged 167 days in space, and spent five months living and working on the International Space Station. On Tuesday, April 5, he spoke to a full room at Ellington Field, telling students in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program what it’s like to do a spacewalk, live in zero gravity, and get re-accustomed to living on Earth. More…


Wednesday, April 6
The Second Flight Day

Stephanie Finnvik,’12; Cecilia Grove, ’11; and physics professor Kevin Crosby had their turn in zero gravity on Wednesday, April 6. The members of the Carthage Microgravity Team flew aboard G Force One, taking off from Ellington Field shortly after 9 a.m. Watch two videos from the flight and see pictures. More…

Meet the 2011 team.

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2019), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • 96% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. 95% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Computer science students watch Prof. Mark Mahoney’s recorded lecturers in their free time, so he can nearby “when they do their real learning,” he says. He has company: Physics professor Brant Carlson’s quantum mechanics video playlist has been viewed more than 170,000 times. 

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has been named a top producer of Fulbright Fellows three years running: 2015-2016, 2016-2017, and 2017-2018. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from 75% tuition up to full tuition, room, and board. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …