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In July, a team of eight Fresno State students went to NASA to conduct an experiment in its Grant Us Space Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. The students departed to Houston, on July 5, where they trained for their weightless experiment.

Fresno State Students work with NASA

NASA students experiencing weightlessness.
Fresno State students students working with NASA. Students conducted
experiments at zero gravity. Chemistry student Riann Egusquiza and
other students conducts experiments in NASA’s “Weightless Wonder” aircraft.
Photo courtesy of Team Fresno State

In July, a team of eight Fresno State students went to NASA to conduct an experiment in its Grant Us Space Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program.

The students departed to Houston, on July 5, where they trained for their weightless experiment.

“We were the only team there doing work at zero gravity,” Mujahid Umar, a mechanical engineering major at Fresno State said.

The team tested the formation of a substance called calcium oxalate in order to see how it reacts in a microgravity environment on NASA’s “Weightless Wonder” aircraft. Calcium oxalate is salt crystals found in plants and is also the major component of kidney stones.

The Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program gives undergraduate students the chance to offer ideas to NASA. The teams also build and fly in a reduced-gravity experiment.

The team was chosen from more than 20 groups nationwide after they reapplied. NASA rejected their first proposal but after hours of researching, building the experiment and then reapplying they were selected.

“Being a NASA employee for two weeks, you know, that just hits home. It’s just pretty cool,” said Jordan Ringel, chemistry major at Fresno State.

The craft produced weightlessness for 18 to 25 seconds at a time in a series of 30 parabolas, Umar said.

“The best part of the trip was being weightless. It is indescribable and such a natural feeling,” Gonzalo Leyva, an electrical engineering major said. “It was the best decision I have ever made.”

The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students and they are still deciding if they will apply for next year’s simulation, Joy Goto said, the assistant professor for the chemistry department that went on the trip with the students.

“So I just held on a little bit to one of the straps and just let my body float up, it was an amazing experience,” Jose Correa said, a civil engineering major at Fresno State.

According to NASA’s website, astronauts are at risk for developing kidney stones because of the loss of bone calcium and decreased fluid intake.

The kidney stones can form during or after the flight, and can pose serious consequences if not treated immediately.

“Mentoring and going with this group of students is something that most professors don’t get to do,” Goto said.

The students that went on the trip are Mujahid Umar, the team leader, mechanical engineering from Mecca, Saudi Arabia; Jose M. Correa Jr., civil engineering from Oxford, Mich.; Datoliban Roland Coulibaly, civil engineering/mathematics from Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire; Riann Egusquiza, chemistry from Sanger; Gonzalo Leyva, electrical engineering from Newark, CA.; Jordan Ringel, chemistry from Temple City; Robert Benjamin Runyon, mechanical engineering from Madera Ranchos; and Craig W. Seber, plant science from Fresno.

The team will evaluate their findings and provide the results to NASA at a meeting in November.

For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program visit microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov.

You can view a video about the Team Fresno State NASA crew here: