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Multidisciplinary Topics in Senior Capstone Design Courses: Radio Astronomy

[+] Author Affiliations
Paul Tatum, James Linford, Jeremy Grabowsky, Lonzell McKenzie, William Craft

North Carolina A&T State University

Paul Con Cline

Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

Paper No. IMECE2006-13358, pp. 181-186; 6 pages
doi:10.1115/IMECE2006-13358
From:
  • ASME 2006 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Innovations in Engineering Education: Mechanical Engineering Education, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Heads
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA, November 5 – 10, 2006
  • Conference Sponsors: Mechanical Engineering Education, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Heads
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4781-0 | eISBN: 0-7918-3790-4
  • Copyright © 2006 by ASME

abstract

The exciting contributions to science and education made by radio astronomy over the last three decades would not have been possible without the development of radio telescopes of increasing sensitivity and power. The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) is located near Brevard, North Carolina. It was built in 1962 and was a facility for tracking the spacecraft of the NASA Mercury and Gemini missions. In the late 1970's it was used by the National Security Agency for monitoring Soviet satellite activity and was decommissioned in 1992. It was later purchased by PARI and is now used for astronomical education and research as a not for profit organization. During the spring of 2005, Mr. Don Cline, President of PARI and William Craft, began discussing ways in which engineering students could both learn about radio astronomy and contribute to the development to the educational and research programs at PARI. Since North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University is one of the closest engineering colleges, they concluded that student design projects that focused on the enhancement of radio astronomy equipment would both help PARI and provide a challenging capstone design experience to engineering students. The A&T capstone program covers two semesters and six semester credits, and among an initial listing of potential design experiences, we selected four that would enhance the operation of the two 26-meter PARI radio-telescopes. These two twenty-six meter radio-telescopes are known as 26E (East) and 26W (West). Both radio telescopes have roughly the same size and construction. The photo schematic (Figure 1) is representative of each. Note the major (lower) axis is 13 meters from the ground, and the minor (upper) axis is 20 meters from the ground. Both are at right angles to each other and parallel to the ground plane when the dish is in the upright position. The top of the instrument cage is 37 meters high.

Copyright © 2006 by ASME

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