Teens gain global experience at ASU Chinese language camp


June 18, 2015

Eventually, Dominique Reichenbach plans to travel the globe as a United States Foreign Service Officer. But today she’s learning how to tie Chinese knots.

Sitting in the basement of the Language and Literature building on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, Reichenbach maneuvers a length of silky green string over and around the yellow one beneath it, passing it through a loop and pulling it tight. Her face is stern and her eyes are trained on the task before her as she repeats the step, on the opposite side this time. woman helping student make keychain Phoenix educator Sophia Lee helps Dominique Reichenbach, 18, start a Chinese knotted keychain during the ASU Chinese Language Camp: From STARTALK to Flagship, on the Tempe campus, June 17. The 15-day intensive residential program for eighth- to 12th-grade students offers an introduction to Chinese language and culture. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

At the front of the classroom, instructor Sophia Lee is explaining that the most common color for Chinese knots is red because the color is considered lucky in Chinese culture.

It might not seem like a clear path to her end goal, but these knots can help bind Reichenbach’s present with her future.

A recent graduate of Cactus Shadows High School in Scottsdale who will start at Barrett, The Honors College this fall, Reichenbach is participating in the ASU Chinese Language Camp: From STARTALK to Flagship. It’s a two-week residential program that offers motivated eighth- to 12th-grade students the chance to expand their knowledge of Chinese language and culture through intensive language instruction and hands-on cultural activities.

The camp is an extension of ASU’s expanded presence in and relationships with China to enhance global research and education.

“Politically and economically, China is playing more of a leading role on the world stage these days, so it becomes very important for Americans to get to know the culture and the country more, in order to be able to interact and communicate with [Chinese people],” said Xia Zhang.

Zhang has been a senior lecturer in Chinese at ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures for 13 years. During that time she says she has seen “way more” students opting to study Chinese language and culture.

But ASU didn’t have any programs like STARTALK to help foster that interest. So, about seven years ago, Zhang wrote a grant proposal to implement the program at ASU and it was accepted.

Funded by the U.S. National Security Agency, the STARTALK language learning program was established in 2006 as part of the National Security Language Initiative to expand national capacity in critical languages. ASU's STARTALK program in Chinese began in 2009.

Tempe Preparatory Academy rising sophomore Emma Moriarty appreciates the authenticity of the STARTALK program.

“I just love how close to the culture you get here because most of the teachers are from China, so they get to share their experiences and share what it was like growing up there,” Moriarty said. “And in class, if we ask a question, they explain it to you [in Chinese], so it really forces you to fully try to understand the language.”

In addition to lessons in Chinese language and culture, the program boasts a living-learning setting, where participants gain first-hand college life experience by living on the Tempe campus in student housing and attending classes taught by ASU faculty in campus classrooms.

After completing STARTALK, students are encouraged to apply to the ASU Chinese Flagship program in the School of International Letters and Cultures. The undergraduate program is designed for Mandarin language learners who seek to achieve superior language proficiency while pursuing degrees in the academic major of their choice.

“For me, personally, I have seen [the students] grow a lot. Not only in their language skills, but also I can see that they have become more independent … ,” Zhang said. “They grow as people.”

Some information was taken from a 2013 feature by Roxane Barwick of ASU’s Center for Political Thought and Leadership. That story can be read in full here.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

ASU Mars camera makes 60,000 orbits of Red Planet


June 19, 2015

Next week, a visual and infrared camera designed at Arizona State University will pass 60,000 orbits of the Red Planet.

It is carried on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, the longest-operating spacecraft from any nation at Mars. The long run has allowed the camera to take nearly 400,000 images, enabling scientists to map much of the planet's surface. Gale Crater seen by the THEMIS camera Nearly a hundred miles wide, Gale Crater, home to Mars rover Curiosity, shows a new face in this mosaic image made using data from the Thermal Emission Imaging System. The colors come from an image-processing technique that displays mineral differences in surface materials in false colors. For example, wind-blown dust appears pale pink and olivine-rich basalt looks purple. The bright pink on Gale's floor appears due to a mix of basaltic sand and wind-blown dust. The blue at the summit of Gale's mound probably indicates a different kind of local material exposed there. The typical average Martian surface soil looks grayish-green. Scientists use these false-color images to identify places of potential geologic interest. Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University Download Full Image

The camera – the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), which operates in five visual and nine infrared (heat-sensitive) "colors" – was designed by ASU professor Philip Christensen, the instrument's principal investigator.

"Mars Odyssey's enduring success has let THEMIS achieve a longer run of observations than any previous instrument at Mars," said Christensen, Regents Professor of Geological Sciences and the Ed and Helen Korrick Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU.

"THEMIS has thus provided the context for most recent Mars scientific research. We're very grateful to the scientists, engineers and technicians who have kept the spacecraft in good health."

He added, "THEMIS also continues a tradition of ASU instruments working at Mars. This began almost 20 years ago, with our Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES), which flew on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, operating from 1996 to 2006."

Even today, Christensen said, he uses THEMIS in his class for first-year undergraduate students. He challenges the class to think of a geology problem, and the students then target THEMIS to take images to resolve the question.

"THEMIS brings Mars exploration directly into their studies," he said.  

As of this week, THEMIS has produced 208,240 images in visible-light wavelengths and 188,760 in thermal-infrared wavelengths. THEMIS images are the basis for detailed global maps and for identification of some surface materials, such as chloride salt deposits and silica-rich terrain. Its infrared imaging also indicates how quickly different parts of the surface cool off at night or warm up in sunlight, which provides information about how dusty or rocky the ground is.

These observations have allowed scientists to map the properties of the surface materials over nearly all of Mars. A particular area of interest is 96-mile-wide Gale Crater, currently the exploration site of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

Mars Odyssey began orbiting the Red Planet on Oct. 23, 2001. It will complete orbit 60,000 on June 23, 2015.

"The spacecraft is in good health, with all subsystems functional and with enough propellant for about 10 more years," said Mars Odyssey project manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Besides conducting observations, Odyssey also serves as a crucial communications relay to Earth for the two active rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, operating on the Martian surface.

Dawn patrol

In 2014, Odyssey began a gradual drift in its orbit designed to begin passing over terrain lit by early morning sunlight rather than afternoon light. In its orbit, the spacecraft always flies near each pole. Its current orbit flies along the "terminator" line between night and day both on the northbound and southbound halves of each circuit. The drift will be halted later this year with a maneuver to lock in the Martian time of day that Odyssey crosses the equator.

The goal of the orbit change is to let THEMIS systematically observe the Martian atmosphere and surface shortly after local sunrise. This is to detect transient atmospheric features such as frosts, fogs, hazes and clouds that burn off or vanish as the Martian day goes on.

Already, an example of this are the clouds that gather around the upper slopes and in the vast summit pit (caldera) of Pavonis Mons. This is one of the giant volcanoes in the Tharsis area, with a summit that reaches about nine miles above the average radius of Mars, a datum that serves as "sea level."

Christensen says, "Pursuing a 'dawn patrol' with THEMIS gives us hope we can catch in the act and study daily effects, seasonal ones, and even those which we think change from year-to-Martian-year."

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Odyssey project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

The School of Earth and Space Exploration is a unit of ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Robert Burnham

Science writer, School of Earth and Space Exploration

480-458-8207