Saturday, May 31, 2008

Launch and lunch

As I'm writing this entry, I've got NASA TV turned on. It is neat being in areas like Huntsville, Alabama and Cape Canaveral, Florida where they get cool stations like this. Well, back home we actually don't have cable, so perhaps that is an option and I just don't know about. I mentioned to a student the other day that I enjoy the show Myth Busters, but I don't get to watch it frequently - only during times, for example, when Monica is at the hospital having a baby. No that isn't why we have 7 children. (See 15 real reasons here.) Anyway, it was an amazing launch today...Okay, we had great seats, but not quite that good. NASA TV is credited with that shot.
With the Best Buy Teach Award we were able to get a nice HD digital video camera. On the bus ride back to Kennedy Space center I was showing the kids the footage we got. The guys from St. Louis sitting behind us were quite impressed with the clarity and quality of the video. Since I had an SD card in it I captured pictures from the launch video. From 6 miles away here are few of the shots I got.

The last shot shows the boosters separation. The commander, Mark Kelly, has a twin who is also an astronaut. Well, they think it was Mark and not Scott. The pilot is Ken Ham, not to be confused the scientist Ken Ham who gives great talks about creation.

Lunch with an astronaut was another excellent experience. When we first sat down at our table, Joseph was wondering if the empty seat next to him was for the astronaut. No, Sam Gemar didn't sit next to Joseph, but he did talk to my son and visited with us as we waited in line to get food. He answered questions to the 300 of us who gathered in the banquet hall/conference facility which is part of the Early Space Exploration building. He answered the question Hannah, from 3rd period physics, asked: The space station is about the size of a football field. If you are in Indianapolis, look here to see when is a good time to look up in the night sky and see it. Those of use who are somewhere else in the world right now, sighting information can be found here. This is a good week to see the ISS.

Another cool answer Astronaut Gemar told was that shortly after take off the Shuttle will be traveling 5 miles every second, or 10 times faster then a speeding bullet. Oh yeah, Supermen & woman. Karen Nyberg is one of the five rookies on this trip.

Astronaut Sam also told us that 1 out of 15 astronauts died in service. If this was true for the 300 people in the room, how many of us wouldn't make it? After the shuttle retires in a little over a year, Ares and Orion will be the next generation of space vehicles. These were designed to be hundreds of times safer. (I just saw the Altair symbol today. I'm interested in that patch.)

Friday, May 30, 2008

We've arrived

After over a thousand miles and two days of driving we arrived at Cape Canaveral Beach right around sundown. I got some video footage of the faces of my children when they first saw the beach.

There are some interesting stories from the journey, like when we stopped at a rest area and a nice old man who wasn't too much taller than my 10 year old asked if I was ready to meet Jesus. Even though it was the middle of the night and I had many sleeping children waiting to get to our hotel room around 2 a.m., I talked to this Jesus-loving maintenance man who had just put on his latex gloves to do some restroom cleaning.
As he talked he brought up the theme of our Physics verses, Psalm 19:1 & Romans 1:20. He also shared his sorrow over his son, who isn't walking with the Lord. I encouraged him to continue to pray with confidence, since God uses our prayers as a means to accomplish his purposes. If God, the Holy Spirit, prompts up to pray for someone's salvation, we have much reason to expect that He will use that to glorify Himself in the redemption of that soul.

One person we didn't meet during our travels was the front desk clerk of the hotel my wife had made Priceline reservations for. There was a bell to ring for after hours service, but the hours on the door said the office closed at 8p.m., and no one answered. After much effort we went across the street to the Country Inn. It was quite a relief when we finally got to lay down after 3 a.m. My wife tells me that our one-year old continued 'talking' for quite some time, but I was unaware of anything until around 9 a.m. when I went down to enjoy the waffle and continental breakfast. I discovered that Country Inn & Suites have a relationship with Reading Rainbow so that young people can take a book and return it to some other Country Inn & Suites. I noticed there is one of these hotels less than a mile from where we are staying in Florida.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Departure time .... and NASA 50 years logo

All systems are go and we are ready for departure. Grades are done, bags are packed, gas tank is full and we are on our way. (If you want to see the countdown clock for the Saturday shuttle launch, click here. Explanation for why there are two countdown clocks and see the other clock here.)

It was nice of NASA to design a logo that goes right along with what I proposed for this fellowship. The logo incorporates a Hubble Space Telescope image of the "Grand Design" spiral galaxy M81 located in the constellation Ursa Major (a.k.a. the Big Bear, a.k.a. the Big Dipper). Check out Job 38:31-33.

I submitted this picture of me in front of my SMART Board to NASA. They are collecting 'postcards' with the 50 year logo in it. There are a lot better ones then this goofy picture of me here. I'll need to get a good one with the family to submit later.

I pray for Godspeed as we travel.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Senior Banquet

As I prepare to depart for a study of the past 50 years of aerospace, tonight I spent some time with a great bunch of future engineers. Proverbs 25:2 "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings." In a sense, this is a group of kings who know how to learn and search out a matter. In the words of Psalm 111:2, these guys know that ,"Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them."

John is an impressive artist and a talented mind. He is the kind of physics student that you look forward to grading his tests because of the beauty of his free body diagrams. I even laminated his sketch of his mousetrap spring-powered vehicle design plan.

Michael is a legend. He was even the source of the 'Tips & Tricks' article in the Spring issue of Nspiring Times magazine.

Matt and I have some great rocket memories. A stand of trees were a bit too thick for their own good, so I went to the store and got an ax for the rocket team. After careful selection, Eagle scout Matt and I chopped down the tree that had his rocket stuck in the top branch.

Killian, the best dressed of the group, has possibly the keenest science and mathematical mind that I have ever taught. He is one of those guys that increases a teacher's motivation to teach, because anything I say, he remembers and learns and can apply it to new situations. There will be an aerospace engineering job waiting for Killian when he finishes the next level of education.

I'll miss being at the class of '08 graduation, but as I'm meeting astronauts and watching the Space Shuttle launch I'll be thinking about these guys and other wonderful seniors who will soon be freshmen again. Congratulations for all your hard work and praise God for the perseverance that comes from Him. My prayer for you is 2 Thess 3:5. Consider the past 4 years as joy... (James 1:2-5) "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Ask God for wisdom.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

GraphiTI stickers

If you were wondering what could be done to improve upon the graphing calculators TI-83/84 or the TI-89 that I've been using to teaching math and science for the past 10 year+, well the answer is the TI-Nspire CAS. Yes you could just get the TI-Nspire, without the CAS, and that device is like getting two for the price of one. The Nspire keypad comes off and it can become an 84 with an even larger font than you were used to. But the CAS, computer algebra system, just makes it so much more of an exploration and discovery tool.

In the most recent edition of the Nspiring Times magazine (sign up here for this free newsletter for those who use TI-Nspire) there was information about a "cool competition" at
I hope some of my students are among the first 250 to submit and SHARE their design with the word "Cool" added to the title. Then we can get some more TI-Nspire slide cover stickers to replenish the ones we've been using.

Last Friday, on the last day of calculus, we learned how to put GraphiTI on these stickers so the students could personalize their technology. We created a couple of excellent designs. Then today, on the last regular day for the underclassmen in my 1st year AP physics class, I showed the students how to make designs and print their creations. Several of those students got their TI-Nspire CAS handheld learning tool (it is called that because it is so much cooler than just a graphing calculator) in preparation for next year's calc class.

If you make some be careful to follow the instructions about the margins. To adjust a margin, go to File, Page Setup. Hopefully some that we made will appear here soon. But until then, here are a few examples of cool fractals and sunsets with a character made from math symbols. The one that says, "Sarah's Nspire" has Leviticus 19:11 at the bottom: "Do not steal ..." One of Covenant's best math students helped put that one together.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Many people in America recognize today as the start of summer. However, this day is set aside as a federal holiday to remember those who have died in military service.
The approximate number of Americans who died in recent wars are
116,000 WWI (1917-18)
405,000 WWII (1941-45)
54,000 Korean War (1950-53)
90,000 Vietnam War (1964-75)
2,000 Gulf War (Aug 1990-Feb 91 )
4,000 Iraq (2003-present)

My grandparents served in WWII. I'm alive because they lived. I thanked my dad today for his service in Vietnam. Again, I praise God that I'm alive because he survived.
Grandpa Ahart, my Dad, and baby John

As we prepare to see a Space Shuttle launch this week I am reminded of the astronauts who died and I pray for those who currently serve. Gus Grissom, an astronaut from Indiana, said, "If we die, we want people to accept it. We're in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life." We have been to his memorial which is just inside the entrance to Spring Mill State Park in Southern Indiana.

With the Lilly grant to travel to Kennedy Space Center, I was also able to get some books. One that I would recommend about Gus Grissom, written by the Indiana Historical Society, can be found by clicking the picture of the book.

It is good of America to set aside a holiday to remember those who have died for us. I'm grateful to God that He has set aside one day every week for a holiday to remember the One who died in my stead as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of His people.


When asked what their favorite color is, I've never heard a youngster reply ultraviolet. That is probably because it is outside of the visible light spectrum.

Last year, my rocket team was involved with NASA's Student Launch Initiative. The mission was to build a rocket to go a mile high and carry an on-board experiment. As a Christian team they wanted to do an experiment that would have some value, something meaningful. (Learn more about the Christian worldview of rocketry they developed.) After discussing a variety of topics, they discovered that most of the team had connections to people who had skin cancer or who had surgery to remove it. Astronauts who are outside of earth's protective atmosphere will be exposed to more extreme levels of UV rays. So their experiment was to see if a particular UV measuring method would enable us to discern a difference between the UV intensity at ground level versus that at a mile high. The rest of this story will have to wait for another day or perhaps you can read the news.

Anyway, the reason I bring this all up is because during their research we came across some interesting SunSmart info. This first video may become one of your children's favourites.

"Slip, Slop, Slap" is a 7MB movie good for the kiddies that was an Aussie commercial in the 80s.

This 3 MB video, good for age 16+, is a more recent effort to educate the public:

Find out today's UV alert in Australia. FIND out UV index in USA

When the UV Index reaches 3 and above, take five steps to protect yourself against sun damage.

Sun protective clothing Slip on some sun protective clothing

Sunscreen Slop on SPF30+ sunscreen

Hat Slap on a hat

Shade Seek shade

Sunglasses Slide on some sunglasses

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Psalm 24a

(tune - from The Book of Psalms for Singing)
The earth belongeth to the LORD, And all that it contains;
The world that is inhabited And all that there remains.
For He upon the waters vast Did its foundations lay;
He firmly has established it Upon the floods to stay.

Who is the man that shall ascend Into the hill of God?
Or who within His holy place Shall have a firm abode?
Whose hands are clean, whose heart is pure, And unto vanity
Who has not lifted up his soul, Nor sworn deceitfully.

This is the man who shall ascend Into the hill of GOD?
The God of his salvation shall Him righteousness accord.
Lo, this the generation is That after Him inquire,
O Jacob, who do seek Thy face With all their heart's desire.
Sun setting above Pacific Ocean as seen from the International Space Station

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Preparing for departure

This is Discovery waiting for launch. You can see this and other pics at this NASA website. Our family is similarly making final preparations for our departure. We will be at the 5:02 p.m. launch on Saturday, May 31st, 2008. With the Lilly Teacher grant we will also be able to have lunch with an astronaut that day. (This will not be the astronauts who are on the shuttle that will be leaving a few hours later.) If you could sit down with an a astronaut, what would you want to ask him/her?

If you want to see our mission control board in our homeschool/play room and hear about a pre-departure mishap, check out "Typical."

Dominion - Blog #1

In 2003, I took my family around to many Indiana state parks. It was the 200th anniversary of Lewis & Clark and I had several of my children who were getting their expedition log stamped in order to earn a prize. Well, we weren't exactly lost, but as we were driving in the middle of seemingly nowhere, we passed a white house and then a enormous jet airplane. We pulled over to discover that it was the birthplace of Wilbur Wright (see their website). I was intrigued to find this plaque that was dedicated by the General Assembly of Indiana in the year of our Lord 1955. They sited Genesis 1:28 and noted that Wilbur was the co-inventor of "the aeroplane that gave man some dominion over the air, sea and earth."

(I held up our newly born first son for the picture. He has
turned out to be quite an inventor himself.)