HOUSTON - NASA has selected Northwoods Park Middle School, in Jacksonville, N.C., to fly their school's experiment aboard the agency's reduced gravity aircraft, the "Weightless Wonder," a modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9.

Northwoods Park was one of 20 NASA Explorer School (NES) teams selected for this unique experience, which will give teachers the sensation of flying in space as the aircraft carefully executes a series of parabolic maneuvers. To produce each parabola, the DC-9 will make a steep climb followed by an equally steep dive, creating about 25 seconds of weightlessness.

The teachers and students are working on the design and construction of their proposed project to get it flight-ready. Once complete, Angie Kautter, sixth grade math and science teacher; Regina Carroll, sixth grade science and social studies teacher; Peggy Pullicino, seventh grade science teacher; Roger Phillips, eighth grade science teacher; and Wick Bode, sixth grade math and science teacher, will travel to NASA's aircraft facility at Ellington Field and the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The Northwoods Park Middle School teachers will arrive at Ellington on Feb. 11 to prepare for their flight that week. Following their flight, the teachers will be able to share their experiences and immediate findings with their students back at home via video conferencing technology through NASA's Digital Learning Network.

The school was selected a NASA Explorer School in 2004, giving the school an opportunity to propose a reduced-gravity experiment. The program, which now has 175 teams nationwide, allows schools and their communities to work with NASA in a three-year partnership to develop the nation's future science, technology, engineering and mathematics work force.

Northwoods Park's experiment, Blackbeard's Jewel Box, will explore gravity and buoyancy. Gravity is a force that causes mass in the universe to be attracted to all other mass. Bouyancy is an upward force on an object immersed in a fluid, enabling it to float. The team has designed an experiment to closely observe and calculate these forces.

Four standard size drinking water bottles filled with Karo syrup and each containing a mass-measured tube with a known air space will be placed in a glovebox and flown within NASA's DC-9 reduced gravity aircraft during parabolic flight to illustrate the interactions between variable gravity and force due to gravity. The team will issue a final report three months after the flight that analyzes the experiment's effectiveness, scientific findings and what conclusions were drawn from those results.

With this program, NASA continues the Agency's tradition of investing in the Nation's education programs. It is directly tied to the Agency's major education goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. To compete effectively for the minds, imaginations and career ambitions of America's young people, NASA is focused on engaging and retaining students in STEM education programs to encourage their pursuit of educational disciplines critical to NASA's future engineering, scientific and technical missions.

For more information on NASA Explorer Schools on the Internet, go to:


For more information on other NASA Reduced Gravity Programs, call Debbie Nguyen of NASA Johnson Space Center at 281-483-5111, or visit the Web at: http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov