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Planetarium astronomers learn about Bob Jones engineers’ Venus mission

MADISON – For Venus Day, the Von Braun Astronomical Society ‘jettisoned’ to space with Bob Jones High School engineering students at the planetarium on Monte Sano.

S.P.I.D.E.R. team members from Bob Jones coordinated Venus Day at the Von Braun Astronomical Society planetarium. (CONTRIBUTED)
S.P.I.D.E.R. team members from Bob Jones coordinated Venus Day at the Von Braun Astronomical Society planetarium. (CONTRIBUTED)

Engineering for Tomorrow Academy students in Jessye Gaines’ engineering internship class presented components of their senior design project on Nov. 2. They are participating in the Innovative System Project for the Increased Recruitment of Emerging STEM Students (InSPIRESS).

These students are competing in the Venus Explorer Mission. “We’ve developed and designed a scientific payload for a spacecraft designed by the integrated product team at the University of Alabama in Huntsville,” Vanessa Cardwell said. Cardwell is community engagement director for the team.

Bob Jones’ team is named S.P.I.D.E.R., or “Senior Project with InSPIRESS for Design, Exploration and Research.” S.P.I.D.E.R. will gather information about “formation and properties of arachnoids, large structures of unknown origin found only on Venus’ surface,” Cardwell said.

S.P.I.D.E.R. members are project manager Jeremy McCormick, communications and marketing director Alyx Benedict, Brady Ford, Achille Heraud, Evan Knight, Ben Johnson, Austin Butler and Thomas Atkins, who are Bob Jones seniors, and chief engineer David Hawkins from James Clemens High School.

Their motto is “Expanding the web of knowledge.”

Cardwell defined engineering as “application of math and science to design structures, and thus a dominant force in implementing space-related projects.” This semester, they researched Venus’ atmosphere and properties to design the best payload given the terrible conditions.

The mission will measure soil composition, along with plotting arachnoids with reflection seismology to estimate subsurface.

The Madison teenagers also enjoyed stargazing inside the planetarium and at the outside telescope, Gaines said. They served “Edible Venus” desserts, demonstrating Venus’ layer with candy. Taffy symbolized the Earth’s core, while Rice Krispie treats were the crust.

They coated Venus with icing and mini-chocolate chips for mountains, volcanoes and arachnoids. Finally, they covered Venus in cotton candy, representing a carbon dioxide atmosphere.

In addition, they distributed and collected UAH surveys to gauge the audience’s knowledge of NASA.

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