EDISON — A virtual trip to Chile to learn about a NASA program gathering data on polar ice was on the agenda Wednesday at the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison.
Forty-two juniors took part in an online “hangout” with NASA scientist Christy Hansen, project manager for Operation IceBridge, a 4-year-old program that uses lasers beamed from a low-flying DC-8 to measure the height and thickness of the ice in Antarctica and Greenland.
Hansen spoke to the students from Punta Arenas, Chile, the base for flights over Antarctica. Students submitted questions via email. Other students were writing in from such far-flung locales as Gibraltar and Thailand.
Hansen explained that the data is used to measure trends in the ice sheet and sea ice in both Antarctica and Greenland, where she was involved in flights earlier in the year. The sea ice in Greenland is diminishing, she said, while the opposite is occurring in Antarctica.
She said no conclusions have been drawn about the trends. The program is scheduled to continue at least until 2016, when a satellite will be in place to gather similar data.
One of the students attending, Anand Iyer of Piscataway, said he hopes to someday become an astronaut and would like to obtain information about NASA internships in the hope of getting some “real-world experience” in space science.
The “hangout” was sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“The best thing is to take a trip and be there, but that’s not possible, so this is the next best thing,” said computer science teacher Enzo Paterno. “This is something that we want to be involved in in the future.”
A former career scientist with AT&T and Bell Labs, Paterno said he was especially interested in a possible program on the Curiosity Mars rover, since his students are studying robotics and micro-controllers.
The Middlesex County Vocational & Technical School District has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. Perth Amboy Vo-Tech has been named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2012, and the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison was singled out as one of the nation’s best high schools by U.S. News & World Report for the fourth consecutive time, receiving Bronze Medal honors in the magazine’s ranking of the nation’s best public high schools for 2012. In addition, New Jersey Monthly magazine ranked the Edison Academy fourth in New Jersey in its first survey of the state’s vocational high schools. The Edison Academy and the Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences in Woodbridge were ranked first and second among all Middlesex County public high schools by Inside Jersey magazine, a publication of the Star-Ledger.