October 2019: 10th annual [2019] IsLAND Conference Roundup

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

First published in Independence Science Newsletter December 2019 

The 10th IsLAND conference was held in Huntsville, AL October 4 and 5 at the Huntsville Marriott at the Space & Rocket Center. October 4 was our pre-conference day at NASA Space Camp!

SpaceCamp was quite an experience. We arrived at the facility at about 8:30 for registration and a delicious light breakfast. There was a briefing meeting where we were divided into two teams Discovery and Enterprise. We all picked roles as either members of the shuttle crew, ground crew or ISS (International Space Station). Each shuttle crew had a commander, pilot, mission specialists and payload specialists.

After receiving our assignments, we all participated in riding two trainers. The Multi Axis Trainer (MAT) is a chair that spins in three axes. No one got sick from the experience.

The next trainer was the One Sixth Gravity chair. This device simulates what walking on the moon would be like. Since the Moon has one sixth of Earth’s gravity, a step causes one to bound across the surface.

We then went to our assigned shuttles, ground crew or ISS assignments. I was the commander of the Discovery. The shuttle simulators are close to what the actual space shuttle is like. The commander, pilot and some of the mission specialists had to climb an eight foot ladder to get to the upper section of the shuttle. The commander and pilot are surrounded by panels of toggle switches. There is a center console that contains more switches and two keypads. Many of the switches are labeled in braille. After getting a bit familiar with the controls, we broke for lunch.

After lunch, we went on a simulated flight. Like in the real shuttle, the participants were provided a booklet outlining the procedures to follow. A good description of the flight is that it is like a play. Each of the team reads his or her part and takes actions accordingly. There were sound effects but the equipment remained stationary.

After the flight, we toured a museum and were able to look at various displays. Some of NASA’s old equipment was on display. We were able to examine the trainer for the moon buggy used by some of the later Apollo missions. Outside of the museum is a full sized replica of a Saturn V rocket with Space Shuttle on top.

Friday evening, we enjoyed a dinner as part of the opening of the conference. Our keynote speaker was Dave Schleppenbach of Tactile Solutions. Dave showed a thirty-two cell sixteen line braille display he has designed. The unit is about the size of a notebook computer and a little thicker. On Saturday, I was able to feel the display and can report that the response time is quite fast.

Starting Saturday Morning, we had a series of 25-minute presentations which showcased researchers from the classroom, academia, policy, industry and non-profits. For a full list, please view our conference agenda and proceedings that are housed at islandconference.org. The 2020 ISLAND conference will be Sept. 11-13 in Princeton, NJ.