Browsing: NIST General

I’m from a town called Aguadilla on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico—about a 2.5-hour drive from San Juan. My parents grew up in poverty. My mom was one of nine siblings and education was not a priority at the time. She had big dreams of studying, getting a degree, and improving herself, but she was faced with too many obstacles and could not fulfill her dreams. My dad and his three siblings grew up deep in the mountainous region and worked the land as traditional “jíbaros.” My dad had the opportunity to study agronomy in college, but he was drafted for the Vietnam War and had to pause his education. They both understood the value of a good education…

I was always fascinated with science. However, I steered away from pursuing science beyond high school because there was too much math involved (and “MATH,” a four-letter word if ever I saw one, and I never really got along). As a result, much of my teaching experience has centered around things that came more naturally to me. In fact, though this will be my 11th year teaching, it is only my third year teaching science. Throughout my career as an educator, I have had the joy of taking care of a wide variety of “classroom animals,” including a Chinese water dragon, a soft-shell turtle, a kingsnake, chickens, a tarantula, and even a fresh-water eel. This year, as a sixth-grade science…

Whether they’re made of leather or metal, people have been using tape measures for a long time. The first spring-loaded metal tape measure was invented and patented in England in 1829. Alvin Fellows of New Haven, Conn., made improvements to that design, including the locking mechanism that stops the tape from retracting until you want it to, and received a patent on July 14, 1868, a date that is now celebrated by tape measure enthusiasts like myself as National Tape Measure Day. Tape measures are indispensable tools. We use them to build houses, to tailor clothes and to ensure fairness in trade and sports, pretty much any situation where we need to know the length of something. Many years ago…

If I told you my job required a hair net, a “bunny suit,” and a million-dollar piece of equipment, would you have any idea what I do? Do I sound like a mad scientist or a crazy lunch lady? If you haven’t caught on yet, I’ll give you a hint: Don’t trust the mystery meat. Just kidding! I am actually an undergraduate student working in nanofabrication at NIST in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. I create and study devices on the nanoscale, which is 10^-9 meters, or for all you non-science types out there, we’re talking billionths of a meter. Though I’m now studying in a very specialized field, when I started college, I wasn’t sure what path…

Amelia Earhart continues to make headlines, mainly because of her mysterious disappearance. The famed aviatrix vanished on July 2, 1937, during her attempt to pilot a plane around the world. Searches for the wreckage, and speculation about what happened, continue even today. NIST has its own Earhart mystery, dating back to a happier time in her career. The story has never been fully told, at least not for many decades. I got interested because my job involves reading headlines, and in spare moments I enjoy hunting for missing tidbits of NIST history. Back in 1928, Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, a successful flight that launched her fame. She was a passenger on the seaplane…