Science club students at Young Scholar’s Academy are trying to learn more about their surroundings and the impact of humans on them.
The seventh- and eighth-graders recently looked at changes in Colorado River and at satellite and closer pictures of the terrain.
The club has a powerful friend helping it take pictures: NASA.
The aerospace agency loaned the club a radio-controlled hexcopter, which the students watched as members of the Colorado River Aircraft Pilots Society flew it above and around the campus.
The hexcopter is a research drone, said Young Scholar’s science teacher and club adviser Jay Wielkie. The school obtained it through the Remote Sensing Earth Science Teacher Program (RSESTeP) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The hexcopter took images with a pair of cameras, one that works in the visible light spectrum and the other working in the near-infrared region.
Wielkie said the students’ goal is to see what kind of impact the growth of Bullhead City has affected the local ecosystem. To that end, he said, students took water samples from the Colorado, and followed up their imagery with “ground truthing” visits to the riverbank, to verify what the photos tell them about the terrain.
Up near Davis Dam, Wielkie said, the students measured water temperature, salinity and other conditions, than checked downstream to measure those same characteristics.
The difference between those variables, he said, will show the city’s impact.
“The only thing in between (those points) is the city,” Wielkie said.
Most of the hexcopter’s pictures were taken from a height of about 60 feet, said Dominic Grasso of the aircraft pilots society.
Wielkie said he took some NASA training about eight years ago and undertook training last summer hat would allow the science club use of the hexcopter and a small plane. NASA is also providing satellite images the club will use in its research.
He said NASA sponsors the RSESTeP program as a way of exposing students to science.
Seventh-grader Bridget Mac Donald says her experience in the club has been enjoyable, and that the data analysis she’s learning will be useful as she pursues a career as an FBI agent.
She said she was impressed by how quietly the hexcopter operated and by its ability to hover.
“It was definitely an amazing experience,” said seventh-grader Dixie Kacham, of watching the hexcopter’s flight. She said NASA’s participation will make her science club membership more valuable when she begins applying to colleges. Kacham is interested in a cardiology career.
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