Monday, April 20, 2015

2015-04-20: Virginia Space Grant Consortium Student Research Conference Report

Mat Kelly and various other graduate students in the state of Virginia present their graduate research at the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.                           

On Friday, April 17, 2015 I attended the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) Student Research Conference at NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) in Hampton, Virginia. This conference is slightly beyond the scope of what we at ODU WS-DL (@webscidl) usually investigate, as the research requirement was that it was relevant to NASA's objectives as a space agency.

My previous work with LaRC's satellite imagery allowed me to approach the imagery files with the perspective a computational scientist. More on my presentation, "Facilitation of the A Posteriori Replication of Web Published Satellite Imagery" below.

The conference started off with registration and a provided continental breakfast. Mary Sandy, the VSGC Director and Chris Carter, the VSGC Deputy Director began by describing the history of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium program including the amount contributed since its inception and the number of recipients that have benefitted from being funded.

The conference was organized in a model consisting of concurrent sessions of two to three themed presentations by undergraduate and graduate students at various Virginia universities.

First Concurrent Sessions

I attended the "Aerospace" session in the first morning session. In this session Maria Rye (Virginia Tech) started with her explorative research in suppressing distortions in tensegrity systems, a flexible structure held together by interconnected bars and tendons.

Marie Ivanco (Old Dominion University) followed Maria with her research in applying Analytic Hierarchy Processes (AHPs) for analytical sensitivity analysis and local inconsistency checks for engineering applications.

Peter Marquis (Virginia Tech) spoke third in the session with his research on characterizing the design variables to trim the LAICE CubeSat to obtain a statically stable flight configuration.

Second Concurrent Sessions

The second sessions seamlessly continued with Stephen Noel (Virginia Tech) presenting a similar work relating to LAICE. His work consisted of the development of software to read, parse, and interpret calibration data for the system.

Cameron Orr (Virginia Tech) presented the final work in the second Aerospace session with the exploration of the development of adapted capacitance manometers for thermospheric applications. Introducing this additional component as well as some detection circuitry allowed more accurate measurement of pressure changes.

Third Concurrent Sessions

After a short break where posters from graduate students around Virginia were presented, I opted to move to another room to view the Applied Science presentations.

Atticus Stovall (University of Virginia) described his system for modeling forest carbon relating height-to-biomass relationships as well as voxel based volume modeling as a means of evaluating the amount of carbon stored.

Matthew Giarra (Virginia Tech) wrapped up the short session with a visual investigation of the flow of hemolymph (blood) in insects' bodies as a potential model for non-directional fluid pumping.

Fourth Concurrent Sessions

The third session immediately segued into the fourth session of the day, where I changed rooms to attend the Astrophysics presentations.

Charles Fancher (William & Mary) presented work on a theoretical prototype for an ultracold atom-based magnetometer for accurate timekeeping in space.


John Blalock (Hampton University) presented next in the Astrophysics session with his work on using various techniques to measure wind speeds on Saturn from the results returned by the Cassini orbiter's Imaging Science Subsystem.


Kimberly Sokal (University of Virginia) wrapped up the fourth session with her enthusiastic presentation on emerging super star clusters with Wolf-Rayet stars. Her group's discovery of the star cluster S26 in NGC 4449 is undergoing an evolutionary transition that is not well understood. The ongoing work may provide feedback as to the tipping point of the emerging process that affects the super star cluster's ability to remain bound.

The conference then broke for an invitation-only lunch with a keynote address by Dr. David Bowles, Acting Directory of NASA Langley Research Center.

Fifth Concurrent Sessions

For the final session of the day, I attended and presented at the Astrophysics session. Emily Mitchell (University of Virginia) presented first with her study on the irradiation effects of H2-laden porous water ice films in the interstellar medium (ISM). She exposed ice to hydrogen gas at different pressures after deposition and during radiation. She reports that H2 concentration increases with decreasing ion flux, suggesting that as much as 7 percent solid H2 is trapped in interstellar ice by radiation impacts

Following Emily, Mat Kelly (your author) of Old Dominion University presented my work on the Facilitation of the A Posteriori Replication of Web Published Satellite Imagery. By creating software to mine the metadata and a system that allows peer-to-peer sharing of the public domain satellite imagery currently solely located on the NASA Langley servers, I was able to mitigate the reliance on a single source of the data. The system I created utilizes concepts from ResourceSync, BitTorrent and WebRTC.

Wrap Up

The Virginia Space Grant Consortium Student Research Conference was extremely interesting despite being somewhat different in topic compared to our usual conferences. I am very glad that I got the opportunity to do the research for the fellowship and hope to progress the work for further applications beyond satellite imagery.

Mat (@machawk1)

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