Day 4

Day four was really special for everyone as we were able to visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech. We were joined by Chandler G. for our excursion to JPL as she has a family-friend connection to Kevin Criddle, our tour guide. Everyone who was involved with our tour was cheerful and clearly passionate about the incredible work they do. We were shown a museum that displayed models of some of JPL’s most famous spacecraft, like Galileo, the Mars Pathfinder, and the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity. We moved onwards to hear, in depth, about unmanned spacecraft like Cassini and Voyager-1 and then even more about the recent work that Cassini has done in photographing Saturn. We toured Mission Control and stood at “The Center of the Universe,” which seemed iconic in itself, and learned about the infamous “Seven Minutes of Terror.” While wrapping up in Mission Control, we received news that William Shatner was apparently just in the foyer of the building we were currently in, but we unfortunately missed him narrowly, despite running out at the news. After JPL we grabbed a quick lunch and made our way up the winding roads of Mt. Wilson to the Observatory. There, we were given a thorough history of the Observatory, the mountain itself and the creator of the telescopes that are stationed there. We learned of the time when Albert Einstein visited, which was really exciting. After that, we drove to the Kors’ house for a wonderful dinner and swim in their pool, as well as a few hard-fought pick-up basketball games.

— Clarisse & Kylin

Day 3

Our time in Las Vegas was exciting, but brief as our morning bus ride took us through the Nevada-California border to Ivanpah. This loosely populated town is the home of the NRG Bright Source Power Plant — the largest thermal energy power plant in the world. Upon arrival, we were greeted by massive fields of mirrors that all faced up towards three separate steam towers. We were given an excellent overview of the solar plant, and how it is able to generate significant amounts of energy, by the plant’s manager. Next, we drove out to one of the towers to get an up-close look at the magic. At this point, it would be rude of me not to mention the bravery displayed by our very own Mr. Lane who lay in a gravel ditch up by the tower in order to capture a photo of the team with the flashy top of the steam tower. After our informative tour of the solar plant we headed down to the fashion outlet mall of Primm Valley and spent a few hours shopping and grabbing lunch before embarking on a three hour bus ride to our next stop—Pasadena. We checked into our hotel at about five-thirty and were given a few hours to relax and get some dinner and rest up for our big day tomorrow!

— Clarisse and Kylin

 

Day 2

Day two began with a reminder of home as the streets of Seattle were blanketed with snow during the night. We left the hotel at eight in the morning and bussed through slushy streets to iFLY, the indoor skydiving facility in Seattle. Before our free fall flights, we participated in a workshop outlining the physics behind indoor skydiving (how fitting!!!). We learned about the unique design of the building and how it contributes to the creation of powerful winds for the wind tunnel. Before suiting up though, we had to calculate our individual theoretical terminal velocities and be versed in the language that our instructors would be using to guide us during our flights. After iFLY we travelled to The Museum of Flight where had lunch and were given a tour of the place which displayed over one hundred years of history of aircraft and flight. After this, we promptly departed for SeaTac for our flight to Las Vegas. The two-hour flight was smooth sailing for the most part, and fortunately everyone had their luggage this time around. We ended the day with a few hours on the strip of Las Vegas, sight-seeing and taking many characteristically touristy photos. Day two was again a success!

— Clarisse & Kylin

Day 1

We started the day off by leaving our lovely little campus at five in the morning. At YYJ, our check-in took longer than expected and resulted in our having to rush through security and onto our Seattle-bound plane with only minutes to spare. In SeaTac we were met with the unfortunate realization that Christina’s bag had not made the thirty-minute trip across the border with us; however we continued onwards to Boeing where we had a lovely tour of the aircraft factories. We saw the 747, 777, 787 aircrafts in the making as well as a cross-sectional section of a 747 fuselage from the ’80s that had previously been in commission. After departing Boeing we headed to Westfield Southcenter mall where we were able to shop and see a movie. Upon return to our hotel, Chris was thankfully reunited with her long-lost suitcase and the day was thus deemed successful!

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Day 5

Today we went to Disneyland, which was very fun!

We had the entire day to wander the park and go to the various attractions, and the lines were very small since it was a chilly 23 C, clear, and sunny. Luckily we were well equipped for the cold California weather with T-shirts, shorts, and icy drinks!

At 1400h we met for a group ride on California Screamin’, which goes from 0 to 405,666 cabbages/s in 4 seconds, which is 100 km/h in 4 seconds for the Canadians, or 101,416.5 cabbages/s/s (25 km/h/s or 6.9 m/s^2).

The next time we met as a group was for the World of Colour performance, which was an amazing fountain light show — they projected Neil Patrick Harris, along with scenes from many famous Disney movies, onto water vapour, with colourful fountains lighting up the entire show. Every once in a while, the flamethrowers would fire; from our perfect viewing spot,which was a ways away, it felt like standing next to a bonfire. The fountains were gigantic, and there was even a Frozen sing along with princess Elsa! After a full day of Disney wonder, we finished our tour with a wonderful tour dinner at an excellent restaurant.

Overall the tour was incredible — everyone had a great time, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Day 4

Today we woke up early to clear, sunny skies.

Our first stop was JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratories, a branch of NASA that specializes in unmanned missions.

JPL built, and is in charge of, the Mars rover Curiosity, for example, with its famous “7 minutes of terror.”

We started at the museum, where there were many models of all the spacecraft JPL has launched to the various planets, and a very cool infrared camera. Our tour guide, Mr. Kevin Criddle, is working with Cassini, the spacecraft orbiting Saturn — we were very lucky to see a detailed presentation on the project, and really sweet pictures of Saturn taken by Cassini.

We then sat in the room where all the communication happens — Mission Control — and saw the “Centre of the Universe.” Although there was not much going on in mission control while we were there, it still felt extremely special to stand in the same room where so many great things have happened.

After this, we headed to the Mars Yard, which is a small space where the surface of Mars is mimicked with sand and rocks. We were extraordinarily lucky to see the sister rover to Curiosity there!

The sister rover is built to simulate situations on Mars, but on Earth — before maneuvering Curiosity on Mars, they can test what will happen by performing the same maneuver on Earth. This way, they can tell if a maneuver is safe for Curiosity to perform, preventing an unnecessary end to the mission should Curiosity tip over on a sand dune etc.While we were at the Mars Yard, we also got to see old tested wheels, which were totally wrecked from the sharp “Mars” rocks and overuse.

After JPL, we headed up the long and winding road that leads to the Mt Wilson Observatory. There, we saw a really cool and very old solar telescope, and a couple quite gigantic telescopes.

We learned about the history of the telescopes, which were leading in the field when they were built, even attracting people such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking to visit! We also learned a lot about the sun, sun spots in particular, and how they have been researched at the observatory. On our way down the mountain, we even saw the stunning sunset!

— Cindy and Maya

Day 3

Today we had a relaxed start, and spent a couple of hours at the fashion outlets of Las Vegas.

The main attraction of the day, though, was the NRG BrightSource Thermal Plant at Ivanpah.

As we drove up to the plant, the first thing we could see were the boilers — they were extraordinarily bright, and impossible to look at directly. The fields of mirrors surrounding the boilers were very impressive, and we could see the concentrated sunlight reflecting off the air, making the air around the boiler glow in a path towards the mirrors.

After a detailed presentation about how the plant works, including how it affects the surrounding wildlife and the steps taken to protect the environment, we got to walk through one of the three mirror fields and have a close-up view of a boiler through polarised sunglasses.

The concentrated sunlight boils the water in the boiler, then the steam travels through one turbine back through the boiler to be superheated. This causes the steam to be incredibly dry. Then it passes through a second turbine, which is how the energy from the steam is converted to electrical energy. We also got to see the control room, where there are screens overseen by engineers dedicated to each of the three boilers. They have to constantly monitor the temperature of the boiler, and add or subtract mirrors to keep it at an ideal level — if they get too hot, they could be damaged, but energy production needs to be maximised.

Day 2

Today we had an early start, visiting iFly and the Museum of Flight.

Even though it was just the start of the trip, I could already feel the passion and enthusiasm our whole crew has brought with us. From touring to the indoor skydiving, we gained more insight into physics through attempting new things and challenging ourselves.

I’ve never tried skydiving before and I was thrilled by the amazing first-time experience I had at iFly. It was an indoor skydiving place that was built based on the the principles of physics.

With the two huge turbines, a drag force was created by the high-speed air in order to achieve equilibrium with the gravitational force. The speed of this air was in the 110 to 170 km/h range, depending on the flyer’s mass, and was identical to the terminal velocity a sky-diver would reach in free-fall. In the interests of minimizing energy loss, the high-speed air was recycled through 2 closed loops.

Everyone in the group was so incredibly encouraging and we all had a wonderful time.

After iFly, we toured the Museum of Flight, where we took a trip through the history of aviation, from the first gliders of the Wright brothers to the high-tech SR-71 Blackbirds of the Cold War era. Many of us also took a trip in the flight simulators, while others got to tour the Concorde and the President’s plane.

After a turbulent flight to Las Vegas, we wandered down the Strip — the lights were extraordinary! Needless to say, we are all exhausted after a long day of tours and excitement.

— Cindy and Maya

Day 1

After waking up to a breakfast of delicious burritos prepared by the awesome kitchen staff, we left the safety of the Shawnigan Lake bubble and set off for the airport.

The plane ride was superb, albeit short, being only 24 minutes. After checking in at the hotel, we embarked for the first focal point of our tour: The Boeing Factory at Everett.

Fun fact: it is the largest building in the world by volume — you could fit in it the entire Disneyland park, with room for 12 acres of parking!

We saw all sorts of cool planes in various stages of completion, including the Boeing 747-8, the largest model of the company, and the new 787 Dreamliner, which is largely made of carbon fibre and has sweet electrochromatic windows. After the tour, we headed to the movie theatre in a gigantic mall to see a movie and have dinner, and thus concluded our day.

Maya and Jeremy Signing Off.

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New Tour jackets!

New tour jackets!

Doesn’t this group of talented young physicists look fabulous in their new tour clothing?! We greatly appreciate the kindness of the family who provided these wonderful mementoes. Hopefully you will see a variety of images showing them engaged in exciting activities at the six scientific sites we will be visiting — and Disneyland! — next week.