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    • By NASA
      FAIRMONT – Competitive Robotics in West Virginia has reached an all-time high with more teams across the state than ever before.
      The West Virginia Robotics Alliance, managed by the Education Resource Center (ERC) team at the NASA Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility, released new data for the 2023-24 Robotics Season that shows a peak in the number of teams and steady growth over the last several years.
      Number of Robotics Teams in WV “The ERC assumed management of the FIRST LEGO League tournament in 2011 when we had barely 50 teams in West Virginia,” ERC Program Manager Dr. Todd Ensign said. “Today, there are over 550 teams that engage approximately 3,000 students almost daily!”
      According to the data, the overall number of robotics teams in the state has risen every year since 2011 – with one exception during the 2020-21 season when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted participation.
      The ERC now runs qualifying events every weekend, numerous state championships, invitational tournaments, and international competitions. Ensign and many other figures within the ERC and Robotics Alliance have championed robotics events and opportunities for students across the state, including in some of its most rural communities, to help reach this point.
      “This is indeed an achievement on behalf of the students, coaches, parents, schools and districts who are supporting competitive robotics,” Ensign said.
      With such exponential growth, Ensign says more volunteers are needed to support current and future events. Positions are available for people of all ages and levels of prior experience. To learn more about how to volunteer, visit https://www.wvrobot.org/volunteer.
      A major development in West Virginia’s robotics landscape came in 2021 when the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC) recognized robotics as a co-curricular activity. This update made it possible for students to receive a varsity letter in robotics, gaining recognition similar to those earned in marching band or other sports.
      When the WVSSAC recognition was announced, many at the ERC had high hopes for what it would mean to further STEM and robotics in West Virginia.
      “We hope recognition from the WVSSAC will increase the number of schools throughout West Virginia participating in competitive robotics,” John Holbrook, of the ERC, said at the time. “Ultimately, our goal is to see robotics teams from every county of West Virginia.”
      And with the new milestone reached in participation, those goals are closer than ever before. Many events are upcoming as the 2023-24 robotics season continues, including what is set to be the largest VEX State Championship in West Virginia history, March 10-16, at the Fairmont State University Falcon Center and the WVSSAC Robotics State Championship, April 6, at Herbert Hoover High School, in Elkview, West Virginia.
      For a full list of upcoming events: WV Robotics Alliance – Upcoming Events
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      Lee esta historia en español aquí.
      The International Space Station is a microgravity research lab hosting groundbreaking technology demonstrations and scientific investigations. More than 3,700 investigations conducted to date have generated roughly 500 research articles published in scientific journals. In 2023, the orbiting lab hosted more than 500 investigations.
      See more space station research achievements and findings in the Annual Highlights of Results publication, and read highlights of results published between October 2022 and October 2023 below:
      A New Spin on Pulsars
      A view of NICER, attached to the space station’s exterior multipurpose payload shelving unit.NASA Neutron stars, ultra-dense matter left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas, are also called pulsars because they spin and emit X-ray radiation in beams that sweep the sky like lighthouses. The Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) collects this radiation to study the structure, dynamics, and energetics of pulsars. Researchers used NICER data to calculate rotations of six pulsars and update mathematical models of their spin properties. Precise measurements enhance the understanding of pulsars, including their production of gravitational waves, and help address fundamental questions about matter and gravity.
      Learning from Lightning
      The space station’s robotic arm maneuvers the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor, seen at the top of the image, for light testing. NASA Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) studies how upper-atmospheric electrical discharges generated by severe thunderstorms affect Earth’s atmosphere and climate. These events occur well above the altitudes of normal lightning and storm clouds. Using ASIM data, researchers reported the first detailed observations of  development of a of negative leader, or initiation of a flash, from in-cloud lightning. Understanding how thunderstorms disturb the high-altitude atmosphere could improve atmospheric models and climate and weather predictions.
      Regenerating Tissue in Space
      Tissue Regeneration-Bone Defect (Rodent Research-4 (CASIS)), sponsored by the ISS National Lab, examined wound healing mechanisms in microgravity. Researchers found that microgravity affected the fibrous and cellular components of skin tissue. Fibrous structures in connective tissue provide structure and protection for the body’s organs. This finding is an initial step to use connective tissue regeneration to treat disease and injuries for future space explorers.
      Mighty Muscles in Microgravity
      Installation of the Mouse Habitat Unit (MHU) in the station’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility. NASA/JAXA JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) developed the Multiple Artificial-gravity Research System (MARS), which generates artificial gravity in space. Three JAXA investigations, MHU-1, MHU-4, and MHU-5, used the artificial-gravity system to examine the effect on skeletal muscles from different gravitation loads – microgravity, lunar gravity (1/6 g), and Earth gravity (1 g). Results show that lunar gravity protects against loss of some muscle fibers but not others. Different gravitational levels may be needed to support muscle adaptation on future missions.
      Better Ultrasound Images
      JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide uses the station’s ultrasound device to image the femoral artery in his right leg. NASA Vascular Echo, an investigation from CSA (Canadian Space Agency), examined changes in blood vessels and the heart during and after spaceflight using ultrasound and other measures. Researchers compared 2D ultrasound technology with a motorized 3D ultrasound and found that 3D is more accurate. Better measurements could help maintain crew health in space and quality of life for people on Earth.
      This is Your Brain in Space
      ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet with a preflight scan of his brain for the Brain-DTI investigation. ESA/NASA The Brain-DTI investigation from ESA (European Space Agency) tested whether the brain adapts to weightlessness by using previously untapped connections between neurons. MRI scans of crew members before and after spaceflight demonstrate functional changes in specific brain regions, confirming the adaptability and plasticity of the brain under extreme conditions. This insight supports the development of ways to monitor brain adaptations and countermeasures to promote healthy brain function in space and for those with brain-related disorders on Earth.
      Improving Solar Materials
      The MISSE-FF platform is used to test how exposure to space affects materials, including those used for solar power in space.NASA Metal halide perovskite (MHP) materials convert sunlight into electrical energy and show promise for use in thin-film solar cells in space due to low cost, high performance, suitability for in-space manufacturing, and defect and radiation tolerance. For Materials International Space Station Experiment-13-NASA (MISSE-13-NASA), which continues a series investigating how space affects various materials, researchers exposed perovskite thin films to space for ten months. Results confirmed their durability and stability in this environment. This finding could lead to improvements in MHP materials and devices for space applications such as solar panels.
      Understanding Bubbles in Foams
      A sample cell for the FOAM investigation on the space station.NASA Wet foams are dispersions of gas bubbles in a liquid matrix. An ESA investigation, FSL Soft Matter Dynamics or FOAM, examines coarsening, a thermodynamic process where large bubbles grow at the expense of smaller ones. Researchers determined the coarsening rates for various types of foams and found close agreement with theoretical predictions. A better understanding of foam properties could help scientists improve these substances for a variety of uses, including firefighting and water treatment in space and making detergents, food, and medicine on Earth.
      Answering Burning Questions
      A sample of composite cotton and fiberglass fabric burns during Saffire-IV.NASA Fire is a constant concern in space. The Saffire series of experiments studies flame conditions in microgravity using empty Cygnus resupply spacecraft that have undocked from the space station. Saffire-IV examined fire growth with different materials and conditions and showed that a technique called color pyrometry can determine the temperature of a spreading flame. The finding helps validate numerical models of flame properties in microgravity and provides insight into fire safety on future missions.
      The Robot Hop
      An Astrobee robot performs a self-tossing maneuver on the space station.NASA Astrobatics tests robotic movement using hopping or self-toss maneuvers by the station’s Astrobee robots. In low gravity, robots could move faster, use less fuel, and cover otherwise impassable terrain with these maneuvers, expanding their orbital and planetary capabilities. Results verified the viability of the locomotion method and showed that it provides a greater range of distance. The work is a step toward autonomous robotic helpers in space and on other celestial bodies, potentially reducing the need to expose astronauts to risky environments.
      Melissa Gaskill
      International Space Station Program Research Office
      Johnson Space Center
      Search this database of scientific experiments to learn more about those mentioned above.
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      View the full article
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      U.S. Space Forces Central hosted the second annual U.S. Central Command Theater Space Forum recently, bringing together over 140 space experts from all five branches of the Defense Department, multiple Combatant Commands and partner nations.

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      Science Launching on SpaceX's 30th Cargo Resupply Mission to the Space Station
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