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Physics & Astronomy

Ellington Field Day 1

Thursday, March 31 — 1300 hours

By the time SEED program manager Douglas Goforth calls out “Carthage College” during roll call Thursday afternoon, the eight members of the Carthage Microgravity Team are ready to holler. Their “Here!” rings out across Hangar 990 at Ellington Field, where the nine college teams selected for the 2011 SEED program have assembled.

“You walk through the gate and you're no longer a teacher or a student. You're a researcher.” — Dominic Del Rosso, lead reduced gravity flight test director at NASA“You walk through the gate and you're no longer a teacher or a student. You're a researcher.” — Dominic Del Rosso, lead reduced gravity flight test director at NASAFor the students, announcing their presence at NASA marks the start of a week they’ve been working toward for six months. The team began their work for the SEED program in October, and spent most of January and February designing and constructing their experiment.

“We were working nights, every day after school, all weekend when no one was there,” says Danielle Weiland, ’14, from Kenosha, Wis. “We spent a lot of time without seeing sunlight.”

Now, after all that hard work, the team is finally seeing some sun. In Houston, the temperature’s dancing between 70 and 85 degrees. The students are also having the experience of a lifetime.

Ten days at NASA

For the next week, the teams will spend every business day in Hangar 990, preparing their experiments for flight. They’ll also have the opportunity to tour NASA facilities, meet NASA astronauts and scientists, and fly aboard G-Force One, aka the “Weightless Wonder” microgravity aircraft.

“You are encouraged to take advantage of every opportunity while you are here,” says Goforth, co-director of NASA’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program for the NASA Johnson Space Center. Talk to crew members. Ask questions of the people working in the hangar.

And of course, follow the rules.

There are many of them. Hangar 990 is a secured, active flight operations facility. Students must wear their NASA badges at all times and stay within the roped perimeter. All loose items — from tools to pencils to clothing to jewelry — must be secured and accounted for to prevent Foreign Object Damage (FOD), as even small articles can enter intakes and destroy jet engines. All liquids and materials must be clearly labeled, including water. Teams must keep a written inventory and know the location of all tools and other items at all times.

‘Just like any other NASA employee’

Break a rule, and that’s a strike against your team. Get two strikes, and your entire team is grounded, Goforth says. “During the flight week, you’ll be treated exactly like the researchers at NASA.” 

“We have to follow any protocols and guidelines that any other NASA employee would have to follow,” says Stephanie Finnvik, ’12. “We’re just like any other NASA employee.”

“It means we’re accountable for everything we do, as well, just as much as a NASA engineer would be,” adds Erin Gross, ’12. “So that’s a lot of pressure. But it’s really exciting at the same time.”

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2021), 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.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit The Aspire Center.

    • 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. More than 90% 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 ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. 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 marketing 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 $22,000 up to full tuition. 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 Intellectual Foundations.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, 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 130 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 in the Top 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 …