Gannon University Receives Research Grant From NASA

Posted: May 26, 2016

Gannon University has received a $50,000 research grant from NASA for its Science Mission Directorate's 2015 Undergraduate Student Instrument Project (USIP) as part of the Student Flight Research Opportunity program.

Influential in obtaining the grant were Wookwon Lee, Ph.D., an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Gannon, and Nicholas Conklin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of physics. Together Conklin and Lee led the grant proposal to help bring more opportunities to the students in engineering and the sciences.

Over the next 18 months, a student team led by faculty will design a payload for near-space, high-altitude ballooning. The payload will then go through an eight-hour thermal and vacuum test in NASA's Columbia Science Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas in July 2017.

After testing, the payload will fly aboard the High-Altitude Student Platform (HASP) and will be launched in Ft. Summer, New Mexico in September 2017.

Gannon's electrical engineering and science programs are not new to this process, however. In 2013 they received a grant for $49,998 for their first USIP program. The payload was successfully completed in March 2015 and was launched in Tucson, Ariz., aboard World View's high-altitude ballooning platform.

In addition to the $50,000 grant from NASA, the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium awarded the University's engineering and sciences with a $4,700 grant. The grant will be used for sustaining a higher education program at Gannon.

Lee said the 2016-17 grant will support two undergraduate research projects: "Experimental Payload Design for HASP 2017 Integration and Launch" and "Tracking Payload Design for Participation in the Solar Eclipse Ballooning."

"The proposed projects will contribute to creating and maintaining research opportunities for undergraduate students, primarily sophomores and juniors, but first-year students are also encouraged to get involved in NASA mission-related projects early on," he said.

Conklin said the last grant NASA awarded them allowed them to provide quality research experiences for over 20 students from engineering and science programs.

As for this year's NASA grant project, Conklin said, "We have already assembled an excellent student team and I am very excited to work with them on this project."