Transcript for NASA Connect - Proportionality - The X-Plane Generation

[ Music ]

[Collins] Hi.

I'm astronaut Eileen Collins.

You may remember me as
the first woman to pilot

and to be named a space
shuttle commander.

You know, when I was a
child, I dreamed about space.

I knew that I'd have to study
math and science if I wanted

to become an explorer myself.

In today's episode of NASA Connect,
you will see how NASA engineers

and scientists are using a
math and science to build

and test scale models
of spacecraft.

You will also get to
make your own model

of the NASA spacecraft
using your knowledge

of ratios and proportions.

So hang on as hosts Dan Hughes
and Jennifer Poli connect you

to the world of math,
science, and technology

on this episode of NASA Connect.

[ Music ]

[Jennifer] Take it
easy, take it easy.

Are you all right?

[Dan] No. This is terrible.

[Jennifer] What's the matter, Dan?

And why did you insist that
I meet you here on a bicycle?

[Dan] Come on, we
haven't time to lose.

[Jennifer] Wait a minute.

Dan, Dan! Let me just see
if I've got this straight.

You've come to Huntsville
Alabama to go to space,

but decided you will show up days
early to be in a 20 mile bike race?

[Dan] No, Jennifer.

It's a 25 mile bike race.

[Jennifer] I never knew
that you raced bikes.

[Dan] I didn't either.

I mean, I never have.

I'm exhausted.

What was I thinking?

I'm sure to lose.

[Jennifer] Well, can't
you just withdraw?

If you like, you can go

to the outdoor sports
conference that I'm attending.

I'm sure you'll find the
speakers and sports fascinating.

They'll even discuss bike racing.

I know. We'll train
again next fall,

and sign up to race next year.

[Dan] No. I feel obligated.

And besides, the entry
fee is nonrefundable.

[Jennifer] Okay, so
you are committed.

But why the negative attitude?

I mean a damn, you
could win this race.

[Dan] You're right.

Based on the one-mile test run I
did this morning, I may be destined

to enter the record books as
the worst bike racer ever.

[Jennifer] Well, the one-mile
test run was a great idea.

And you know, I have friends at
NASA Marshal Space Flight Center

in Huntsville, Alabama.

They conduct tests on their
vehicles before flying them.

And who knows, maybe --

[Dan] Are you saying that I should
get a rocket engine put on my bike?

[Jennifer] Not exactly, relax.

Come on. It's downhill
most of the way.

[Dan] OK. Let me get
some energy, some food,

my energy is running low as well.

[Jennifer] All right.

While you're doing that, why
don't we meet back at the US Space

and Rocket Center in,
say, about an hour.

And then we'll go there.

[Dan] All right.

[Jennifer] Meanwhile,
let's head over to one

of NASA's research
partners, the University

of Alabama at Huntsville.

Dr. Clark

[unclear], a professor

at the university's propulsion
research center is there waiting

to tell us more information
on energy and motion.

[Clark] Energy and motion are found

in common everyday
things we find around us.

Energy is the capacity for doing
work, and motion is the term we use

to describe things moving
from one place to another.

I can illustrate energy and its
transformation using this ball.

I put work in by raising it up
to this height above my head,

and then I transformed into energy
of motion as I let go of it.

Now we'll go over to our
propulsion test facility,

and meet with engineering
student Melanie Janetka.

[Melanie] What we do here
is test small-scale versions

of rocket engines to see how the
real ones will behave in flight.

That's a whole idea
behind proportionality.

And doing it this way makes
space transportation safer,

more affordable, and more reliable.

By taking his bike on a test run,

Dan was able to see how his bike
would perform in an actual race.

Proportionality is
the use of ratios.

In other words, this engine is

about 2000 times smaller
than the real thing.

Dan's test run was 25 times shorter

than the distance he
will travel in the race.

Proportionality is
used for everything.

That includes art,
cooking, and architecture.

[Clark] When we are designing

and testing state-of-the-art
multimillion dollar stadiums,

there are several steps we must
take even before ground can

be broken.

One of those steps is
to build the stadium,

but on a much smaller scale.

We called this proportionality.

It's the use of ratios
like 1:100 in scales

in order to meet challenges.

It's nothing new.

It's likely the Egyptians used this
to help build the great Pyramids,

and the Romans to help
construct the Coliseum.

Today, proportionality
is used everywhere.

NASA even uses this to help
construct future spacecraft.

This is a scale model of
the Raymond James Stadium,

home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Every inch here was 100 feet or
1200 inches of the real thing.

A lot of this goes
back to math class.

It's all about proportion
and scaling things.

We pay close attention to the
relationship between sizes.

[ Music ]

[Voices] Unclear.

How would a test engineer
use computation?

[Melanie] Force is the capacity to
do work or cause a physical change.

Now that was the force
of gravity at work.

The work that we're doing
here deals with propulsion.

We are developing ways to overcome
the force of Earth's gravity.

Unclear is the power of
available for us to use.

We get our energy by fueling
our bodies with healthy foods.

When we ride our bikes, our human
body is a machine that propels it.

Rockets carry their own
propellants as an energy source.

The proponents are
burned in the engine,

which provides the force
needed to reach Earth orbit.

Last but not least is
calculating, or computation.

Simply put, that's working with
numbers to make them work for us.

We use computation before, during,
and after these rocket tests.

All of these concepts can be and
are perceived in our everyday lives

with all sorts of problems.

[Jennifer] Mike, how do you
get ready for a bike race?

Hey John. Thanks for meeting us.

This is my friend


[Voice] Hi Dan and Jennifer.

I'd like to welcome both of you
to the Marshal Space Flight Center

and to our historic test area.

Dan, we understand that you're
involved in a bike race.

And in any race, it's
important to understand

where you've been before you
figure out where you're going.

[Jennifer] Some pretty historic
boosters tested right here

in these test areas.

The measurements taken here
on the ground were used

to calculate how the real
thing would operate in flight.

What they did was some
truly amazing things.

You know, it wasn't that long ago
that people talked about something

that was impossible to do, they'd
say, you've got as good a chance

of doing that as going to the moon.

[Recording] Tranquility Base here.

The eagle has landed.

[Jennifer] I bet NASA doesn't
hear that one too much anymore.


[Dan] You know, this
is really cool.

But how can it all be related to
my problem with the bike race?

[Voice] Well, Dan, let's take
a look at what NASA is doing

in its next generation X plane,

which in part is being
tested right in this area.

[Dan] What is an X plane?

[Voice] Dan, an X plane is an
experimental aircraft built

specifically for research purposes.

This is one of the latest explains.

It's called the X-33.

This is a 1:50 scale model of the
X-33, which itself is a scale model

of what we're ultimately
after, which is a single stage

to orbit reusable launch vehicle

that Lockheed Martin
refers to as Venture Star.


[Voice] What is a thermal
protection system or TPS?

[Voice] Name two examples
of thermal protection.

[Voice] The X-33 demonstrator
will fly and test

out the technology used in it to
make going into space more common

by making it more
affordable and more reliable.

It takes off vertically
like a rocket

and lands horizontally
like an airplane.

The X-33 was designed
with advanced hardware

that will dramatically increase
launch vehicle reliability.

The vehicle is designed to reach
altitudes of 60 miles and travel

at velocities up to 13
times the speed of sound.

[Dan] What do you
mean by velocities?

[Voice] Velocity is simply the
speed at which something is moving.

Try hitting the atmosphere when
you are moving at super velocity,

and the friction of air molecules

with the spacecraft become
like sandpaper to a match.

A thermal protection system,
or TPS, keeps spacecraft

from burning off when it comes back

into the atmosphere
on the journey home.

[Dan] OK. So the X-33 has to
be protected from the heat.

But can a TPS be used to
protect something from a cold,

like maybe a special
outfit for me to wear

so I don't freeze during
this winter bike race?

[Voice] Yes.

Some of them are being used
in down to earth applications.

To keep homes and people protected

from temperature extremes,
both hot and cold.

[Voice] Portions of the
X-33 TPS system were tested

on a high-performance jet at the
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center,

and also in special
wind tunnel tests

at the NASA Langley Research Center

and at the NASA Ames
Research Center.

[Dan] I just had a small-scale
test with my 1 mile bike ride.

[Voice] That's right.

Your 1 mile test run was a
much more manageable size

to test your bike's technology
than the 25 mile race.

Because of your testing, you'll be
able to change things on the bike

and retest more easily.

[Jennifer] Now although
the tests were conducted

on two different types of
vehicles, your bike and the X-33,

they basically serve
the same purpose.

They use math and science
concepts to overcome challenges.

OK, Dan, so tell me, what have
you learned from your test run?

[Dan] That I was exhausted.

The bike is so heavy it was
really hard to pedal up the hills.

[Voice] That's because it took
an excessive amount of energy

to propel the vehicle.

If you multiply the
energy that it took

to go 1 mile times the 25
you'll need from the race,

you can see there's a problem.

[Voice] I see what you're saying.

Hey, let's figure it
out mathematically.

[Voice] OK.

How can a one-mile bike ride
tell us what a 25 mile bike race

will require?

Enter the world-famous ratio.

The ratio is a way of comparing
the size of two numbers.

Let's compare Dan's 1 mile test run

to the 25 mile bike
race he will enter.

Now, ratios can be
written in numerous ways.

Like that, or even like that.

Now all of these ratios are
read the exact same way.

They are all read 1 to 25.

Notice ratios can also
be written as a fraction.

Got it? So, for every
one of whatever it took

for Dan's test ride,
it will take 25 times

that in order to complete the race.

For example, let's
say Dan has to pedal

on average 1500 revolutions
to go that 1 mile.

Can you estimate how many
revolutions he can expect to pedal

in order to complete the race?

One way to solve this ratio
is to use the fraction ratio

and set it up like this.

1 mile to 25 miles equals
1500 revolutions to, what?

I mean, what number
can you put here

so that this second
fraction equals 1 to 25?

It's easy.

If you multiply 25
times 1500 revolutions,

that equals, 37,500 revolutions.

In order for him to complete
the 25 mile bike race,

he will have to pedal
approximately 37,500 revolutions.

Better him than me.

Of course, there are better
ways to solve this ratio.

What method did you use?

[ Music ]

[Voice] How can you improve
the performance of a bicycle?

[Voice] Explain two
forces that both X plane

and the bike's performance

and could you tell us how
they relate to each other?

[Voice] OK.

So we've collected the
baseline information

from Dan's 1 mile test run.

I think we can all agree that
some improvements need to be made.

And obviously we can't
change the size of the bike,

but I mean can't we improve some

of the bikes technologies
or something?

[Dan] Yes.

Make it lighter so it's
easier to pedal or something.

[Voice] Right.

You can decrease the force
it will take to pedal

by decreasing the
weight of the bike.

One way that you can do it is
to replace the frame with one

that is made of a new lighter
stronger composite material instead

of this heavy steel.

That's something that we
had to do with the X-33.

[Voice] And we already learned
from our subscale testing

that both the X-33 in the larger
Venture Star are going to need

to use composite materials
in order for both

of them to reach space.

[Voice] You know, it seems to me
that some of Dan's struggle was

with poor aerodynamics.

[Voice] That's another problem
the X-33 and the bike share.

Moving through the air easily
and with less resistance.

A lot of this has to
do with the geometry,

so the shape of the
vehicle is critical.

The X-33 has a wedge-shaped design.

I suggest you look for ways to
make the bike more aerodynamic.

Otherwise, you're just
fighting the force of drag.

Drag is simply the resistance
of an object caused by the air,

in this case, through
which it is moving.

[ Voice ]

Yes. Since X-33 is
a flying machine,

we also need to generate lift.

That is the force
that supports objects

as they move through the air.

[Dan] Well, you can't test
that with a test run like mine.

[Voice] No, but we can
simulate it on the computer.

And we can run small-scale
models in the wind tunnel.

[Dan] Oh, OK.

So we can make the bike less
resistant to air and gravity,

but what else can we do?

[ Voice ]

One thing you can do is you
can make the power source

more efficient.

Now on the bike, you
are the engine.

Are you sure you're using
the gears correctly?

[Dan] No, I don't even
know how they work.

I normally just keep it in third.

[Voice] Well, let me
show you how they work.

It's really easy and it'll
make you a lot more efficient.

[Voice] Well, damn, those
gears are there for a reason.

See, when you are writing or racing
bikes, you want to use your energy

as efficiently as possible.

To do this, you need to
use your gears correctly.

They will help you pedal at the
same rate throughout the race,

and help preserve your energy.

For instance, when biking
uphill, use a low gear.

And when biking downhill or on
a flat road, use a higher gear.

[Voice] Like the gears
on your bike,

the X-33 will also
make efficient use

of the environment it's
traveling through by using

to revolutionary linear

[unclear] engines.

[Voice] That's so cool.

Hey, let's head to
Cookville, Tennessee.

There we are going
to meet some students

who are making their
own models of the X-33.

[Voices] Welcome to Prescott
Central Middle School

in Louisville, Tennessee.

NASA Connect asked us to
show you the student activity

for this program.

Under the guidance of our
teachers, Marla Weaver, Alicia Ray,

and Ronny Amos, we will go
through the steps you will use

to build the paper skin

of the X-33 advanced
technology demonstrator.

In this activity, we will
also measure many dimensions

of the model, compare these
dimensions to the actual dimensions

of the X-33, and compute
a scale factor.

To help you understand about
proportionality and X planes,

go to the NASA Connect web site.

Mr. Weaver reviewed what the lines
and labels on the patterning.

Identify the

[unclear] lines, cut
lines, and alignment dots.

He also told us about the
parts of the X-33 vehicle.

Before we begin, here are
the materials you will need

for the activity.

Card stock or heavy paper.

Pencils, scissors, rulers,
glue, and calculators.

After you've gotten
your material together,

we will begin the activity by
constructing the X-33 model.

Cutting, folding, and
assembling the model will take

at least one full class.

Or about 45 minutes.

Begin cutting out the model
X-33 pattern on sheet one.

It's important that the cutting and
folding of your X-33 is accurate,

so that the parts will
fit together and fold

into an aerodynamic model.


[unclear] all the dash
lines, making sure that

[unclear] lines and
markings are on the inside.

For results, place a ruler along
the line and hold it down tightly.

And slide your finger
under the paper and lift it

up against your ruler.

Cut the stock for canted
and vertical beams,

being careful not to cut the

[unclear] lines.

Glue tab A at the edge
that says glue A here.

Repeat for tabs B and C.

[unclear] and tuck the

[unclear] into the
front of the X-33,

and push it in until it stays.

[Voice] Now you're ready to
cut out the pattern sheet two.

Unclear along the middle
and fold back the tabs.

Put the glue on the top part of
the tabs instead of the bottom.

You can close the rack under

[unclear] but don't glue it yet.

Under the back of the X-33.

Last, cut off the engine,
glue it, and attach it

to the back of the model.

Glue your model closed, and now
you are ready for measurements.

The final measurements
of the full-size X-33.

Each student should
fill out the data sheet

by determining the scale
models of the X-33.

Write the ratio of the
measurements in column D,

make sure that the
units are the same.

Using the results, you can now
calculate the scale factor,

with is the measurement of
a full-size object divided

by the measurement of the model.

When all the data is calculated
and entered in column E,

we are ready to find out
several scale factors

by adding the scale factors
by adding the scale factors

in column E and dividing by 3.

Record your result in the blank.

Now that we understand the
concept of proportionality,

we're going to test whether the
model is a true scale model.

[Voice] Great job, guys.

Hey, let's analyze the data by
reviewing the results of activities

and responding to the
following questions.

What can you learn
about building a model

that would be difficult
to learn otherwise?

How can a model be misleading?

Pretend the scale factor is 140.

Now let's apply this scale
factor is a simple problem.

Decorate the side of your paper
model with the word NASA like this,

using the scale factor of 140,

how tall would the
letters be on the X-33?

Are they bigger than you?

Let's visit NASA's

[unclear] Space Center
in Mississippi.

There, NASA scientists
are testing engines

to make the X-33 more efficient.

The difference between the linear

[unclear] engine and conventional
engines is the shape of the nozzle.

Conventional engines have a
nozzle that is shaped like a bell.

And the hot combustion gases
expand along the inner surface

of this bell.

However, with the arrows
bike engine, the nozzle is

that in the shape of
a V called a ramp.

And the hot combustion gases
expand a long this outer surface.

This unusual design allows
for more efficient performance

from the engine, and a more
optimal vehicle design.

[Voice] Once all the information
is gathered from the various tests,

it comes time to put
the data to use.

[ Music ]

[Voice] How do engineers use
their models to test their ideas?

[Voice] What can you
learn from a scale model?

[Voice] Peter Jennifer and
Dan, welcome to the Skunk Works

at Palmdale, California.

This is the location where
we build the X-33 vehicle.

You can see some of the
parts of the X-33 behind me.

That's the vertical stabilizer.

Most parts are mounted in
the back of the vehicle

to keep it steady during its life.

You can see here on this scale
model, this model is used

to evaluate the aerodynamic
performance in a wind tunnel.

So it is built in exact
proportions to the actual vehicle.

Now the vehicle is under
construction right here.

This is the X-33.

And it is also a proportionate

It is proportional to a much
larger vehicle called Venture Star.

Now, we've learned a lot from
proportioning this vehicle.

We've already changed the
design of Venture Star based

on what we've learned in the
proportioning exercise on page 73.

Well, you sure have
seen and heard a lot

about how proportionality
is used in science.

Now, bringing it to your computer
desktop is NASA's educational

technology program manager,
Dr. Shelley Cainwright.

[Voice] NASA researchers are
constantly testing new technologies

and designs for X planes.

Using everything from scale models
to full-sized flying machines

that carry people, these
researchers evaluate their designs

by using a basic formula
of building, testing,

and recording the results.

I'd like to introduce a class
of eighth-grade students

from Talladega County Central
High School in Talladega, Alabama.

They are undertaking
their own investigation

into proportionality using a
unique model design challenge

posted at the NASA
Connect web site.

Let's see what they're doing.

[Voices] Welcome to Talladega
County Central High School,

Talladega, Alabama.

We have been asked by NASA
to ask these questions.

Can you take a design that
works in one scale and use it

to design at another scale?

[Voice] Do you have to change the
design when you change the scale?

[Unclear] To find out,
we went to Norbert's lab.

And then went to the National
Langley Research Center kids'

corner web site.

We revealed the activity
intro, collected our materials,

and went to work building with
Egret, a paper airplane model.

We used the model shop extra
activities to build the Egret


We had to come up with ways
to scale up the design plan.

The term of the

[unclear] to build
the model airplane.

[Unclear] and record the result.

We learned that changing the skill
of a working design is possible.

[Unclear] revealed some design
problems which were fun to solve.

We are even planning
to increase the size

of the model three times
to see what happens.

We were also able to find
information about aerospace careers

and to see how NASA uses
models in their research.

As the students from
Talladega Alabama have learned,

design and testing scale
models brings its own set

of unique challenges and questions.

From Norbert's lab,
viewers can try their hand

at being a design engineer.

I encourage our viewers
to visit Norbert's lab

at the NASA Connect web site.

And to test their skills
at building the Egret 2X

and other paper airplane
models that are available

from a specially created
online aeronautic model shop.

[Dan] Thank you so
much for your help.

[Voice] It was our pleasure, Dan.

I sure hope it helps.

[Voice] And good luck in the race.

[Dan] Oh, Thank you guys very much.

[Jennifer] Thank you guys so much.

[Dan] Jennifer, get out of the way.

I've got work to do.

[Jennifer] Oh my gosh.

I'd better catch up with
Dan and see what he's

up to before he gets
into any trouble.

Dan, Dan, Dan!

[Jennifer] Wow, Dan, you went out
and bought a bike for this race?

[Dan] I did not.

I transformed the old
bike into a lean, mean,

efficient racing machine.

[Jennifer] OK down.

Tell me what you've done
your bike, this incredible.

[Dan] All right.

I replaced the old frame
with something lighter.

But it's still strong.

I actually figured out
how to work these gears,

which is the great thing.

[Jennifer] So you're
not in third gear.

[Dan] Of course not.

I'm using them all the time.

I made the entire bike more
aerodynamic by getting rid

of these big clunky bags
and using something smaller.

I'm not carrying around
these shirts.

[Jennifer] All right.

So that's what you've
done to the bike.

What have you done to yourself?

[Dan] Well, I got an outfit
that you can see today

to make me more aerodynamic.

And also this morning, I
ate a very good breakfast

[unclear] the vehicle.

I did a 5 mile bike ride.

It went very well.

It's proportionately a
fifth of the real race.

[Jennifer] Gosh, you
sure have learned a lot.

That's great.

Show me more about the gears
and show me what else....

[Dan] Sorry.

I can't. I've got to
get back to the grind.

I've got to perfect my bike.

[Jennifer] All right.

I'll let you be.

Well you know what,
good luck in this race.

Break a leg.

I mean, win.


[Laughter] That's OK.

[Jennifer] Bye.

Good luck.

[Dan] Thanks.

[ Music ]


[Jennifer] Way to go, Dan.

Well that about finishes up
this episode of NASA Connect.

But before we go, would like to
thank Marshall Space Flight Center,

all the NASA researchers,
Lockheed Martin, Peter Frederick,

Dr. Shelley Cainwright, University
of Alabama at Huntsville,

and all the middle school
students and teachers

that helped make this
episode possible.

Hey, why don't you pick
up a pen or a mouse

and right as at NASA Connect?

Dan and I would love to hear your
comments, ideas, and suggestions.

So here's our address:
NASA Connect.

NASA Langley Research Center.

Mail stop 400, Hampton
Virginia, 23681.

Or pick up your mouse and e-mail
us at

Hey teachers, if you would
like a videotaped copy

of this NASA Connect show and the
educator's guide lesson plans,

well then contact CORE,
the NASA central operations

of resources for educators.

All this information
and more is located

on the NASA Connect web site.