Harding University

May 24, 2012

Engineering students receive honorable mention in solar spectrograph competition

Three Harding University engineering students competed last week at the National Student Solar Spectra Competition in Bozeman, Mont. The team competed against 13 colleges and universities to determine the best construction of a solar spectrograph. They received honorable mention for their instrument having the highest resolution.

Harding engineering students Grant Arthur, Brandon Huber and Samuel Gammon were awarded research scholarships to build the spectrometer. According to Dr. Ed Wilson, professor of chemistry at Harding University and NASA researcher, this instrument will be used to establish a solar laboratory on campus in order to make long-range measurements of the sun’s behavior. He explained that the sun affects everything on Earth, including global climate change and disruptions of the electrical grid and satellites.

During the competition students made measurements and gave reports on their instrument’s design and research results. The project was funded by the Arkansas and Montana Space Grant Consortia. The students who participated will continue to help set up the Harding Solar Observatory and compile a final account of their work.

“This project has been fun for me,” said Gammon, a mechanical engineering student from Hoover, Ala. “I love designing and building things, and getting to work on something that will be used for many years gives me a real sense of pride.”

The data gathered by the solar spectrograph will also be used to measure pollutant gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, allowing the ability to monitor water vapor, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. According to Wilson, this data will enable students to offer information of the sun’s effects on atmospheric behavior, providing more accurate predictions of the future behavior of our planet.

“The students and I really benefited from meeting faculty and students from other universities across the land and learning from them more about solar spectra, climate change and pollution,” Wilson said.