Measuring Mass in A Weightless Environment
The student-designed Zero Gravity Scale
Left to right: Steve Mate, Mark-10 Technical Director, the RVTHS students and NASA HUNCH staff, and Mark Fridman, Mark-10 Sales & Marketing Manager
Measuring mass on Earth is a relatively mundane affair, but it becomes more challenging in the absence of gravity. To help make such measurements easier in space, a team of high school students from Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School (RVTHS) in Franklin, MA developed a specialized rotating scale utilizing two donated Mark-10 force gauges.
Developed through close collaboration with NASA and its High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, students designed and assembled a successful measuring system, dubbed the Zero Gravity Scale.
How it works:
Two force gauges were mounted to a spinning platform. A known mass was attached to one of the gauges, while an unknown mass was attached to the other gauge. The students were able to compute the unknown mass by calculating the ratio of the two centripetal force measurements.
The prototype scale design was taken aboard a Zero G aircraft to simulate how the system could be used in space. Encouraged by the success of this experiment, the students were further challenged to miniaturize the scale to a fraction of its size for possible use aboard the International Space Station.
To that end, Mark-10 donated an additional two miniature force sensors to accommodate the tight dimensional constraints. Mark-10 engineers also supplied gauge electronics with custom firmware to automatically calculate and display the ratio of the two measurements on-screen.
Students aboard a Zero G aircraft
- Model M7-10 force gauge – qty. 2
- Model MR04-10 miniature S-beam force sensors – qty. 2
- Customized electronics from the 7i force/torque indicator
“The partnerships between schools (Tri-County), government (NASA) and business (Mark-10) form a perfect triangle that is essential to educate and train our future scientists and engineers. We thank Mark-10 for their donations of equipment and expertise, which has lead to the tremendous success of the Zero Gravity Scale.”
– Florence Gold, Project Manager for NASA HUNCH
For more information about NASA HUNCH, visit nasahunch.com