To those on the project team or following the project, I need to apologize for the current brief delay. Due to weather-related issues in Elmhurst I have been sidetracked. Fun and work will resume soon though!
We hope to transmit position/telemetry as call sign KC9YPC. However…some amateur radio know-how is missing. As a starting point, if anyone has transmitted APRS using a Kenwood TH-D72A and would be willing to share their experiences,, please contact me.
Sending a payload to the stratosphere or mesosphere is a fairly advanced project for elementary school children. It is possible though, and is a way for them to build confidence while exploring math and science. While it is a heavily assisted project at this age, kids as young as 10-12 have successfully done it on their own or with minimal support. The typical mode of launch for these early missions is a high altitude balloon or a sounding rocket. For those with a growing interest in space science, and expanding skills (and resources), much more is now possible.
For ~$8,000 it is now possible to have a small satellite sent into low earth orbit:
Companies like Interorbital Systems provide kits and launch services to educational institutions, businesses, and amateurs. These tubesats remain in orbit for less than a year, but this is long enough to carry out some amazing experiments.
For ~$35,000+ a larger and more capable cubesat can be launched, in some cases into a slightly higher orbit that will leave it in space for years. Both private companies and space agencies (such as NASA) facilitate cubesat launches. While this is obviously outside the realms of possibility for most hobbyists/amateurs (if only due to cost), for students at some universities it provides amazing opportunities. To infinity…and beyond!
In this project we will be approaching STEM learning in a fun and age-appropriate manner. Not everyone is familiar with the term “STEM,” but it is an acronym for the fields of study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. With so many careers requiring these skill sets, and with the U.S. failing to effectively educate our citizenry in these areas, STEM Education has become a public policy matter. Despite high unemployment rates and stagnant wages, many of the careers that STEM leads to are suffering from labor shortages and continue to offer high salaries.
STEM careers include but are by no means limited to:
Moreover, non-STEM careers often benefit from STEM knowledge given the general relevance of math, technology, and scientific reasoning to nearly any field. So STEM is where it’s at!
Rumor has it that NASA is being asked to do a lot more with a lot less every year. On this project we are also striving to do lots with as little as possible.
Inherent to a project of this nature is a bit of uncertainty regarding cost. Based on researching similar projects it appears possible to get into “near-space” and recover a vehicle and payload for as little as $250 or as much as $4,500. The primary variables in the wide-ranging cost estimate are:
Based on some initial back-of-the-envelope budgeting I believe we are looking at realistic high-end/worst-case costs of $650 for expenses and consumable supplies, and $1600 for equipment and electronics. The plan is for outside “Parent Advisers” to split the expenses and consumables. We are hoping for 3-5 Parent Advisers which would put costs at $130 – $220 each. Given the mission’s learning and duration I feel that this is very realistic when compared to things like Park District programs.
Parent Advisers are also asked to help out with ”self insurance.” This is to help share the risk I will be taking on the ~$1600 in equipment. In the even that our project does not return safely…I would be out 60% and Advisers would collectively chip in 40% or ~$640. This essentially doubles participant cost if and only if we lose or destroy everything. To help manage this risk each and every Parent Adviser would have Go / No-Go “veto power” before we launch. Thus parents will be able to judge whether we have done all of the prep work to make the risk as minimal as possible, before liftoff.
To document “Space Race 2013″ (my working name for this project until the kids come up with something better) I will be using a number of tools. All tools used are free and relatively user-friendly.
I am creating this blog using a tool called WordPress, and am serving it up on my own domain, HjerpeFamily.net, which is hosted on Bluehost. The address is http://hjerpefamily.net/Blogging/space2013/ should you want to bookmark it or share it. This blog is public, but WordPress allows for private (restricted by login) posts as well. At some point, if/when we begin posting pictures of the kids, this functionality may be used.
Links to outside materials, and images, are being stored on a Pinterest board which may be found at http://pinterest.com/ehjerpe/high-altitude-ballooning/. This forum is also publicly available.
The combination of Google Docs and Google Drive allow for creating, collaborating on, storing, and sharing nearly any type of document. Whether it is a spreadsheet detailing contact info for our “Mission Crew,” a budget file or timeline, or even a child’s drawing of the earth…it can be shared via Google. There are also benefits to sharing things like project plans or budgets in a format like this as opposed to as an image. For instance a blog reader with an interest in starting a similar project might want to use our work as a template, and Google Docs provides the ability to easily share documents in an editable format. As with all of these tools, the cost (or lack thereof) was a selling point.
Scrapbooks, Projects, and Art
Finally, and of utmost importance, are the ways in which the little scientists will document their project and learnings. In some cases it may be something as simple as a coloring page. In others it may be as advanced as a diagram on poster board or simple notes outlining a hypothesis and experiment to test it. Or it may be a scrapbook comprised of photographs and drawings, put together over pizza and while watching Star Wars. Science, and even the documentation that goes with it, should be fun!
Today I begin documenting what will hopefully be an educational and exciting project for The Hjerpe Family, as well as for the “crew” of miniature space-scientists who we are diligently recruiting. This post is about how we wound up at this embarkation point.
After seeing and being impressed by some beautiful photos of earth, taken from space, I shared them with my kids. Big Kid and Little Kid seemed similarly awe-struck.
This led to some interesting discussions of the earth, space, and space travel. So when a week later I saw a news story about a young girl launching her Hello Kitty doll into “near-space,” I was intrigued and shared with the kids a video clip documenting her mission.
Questions ensued and excitement grew, and it led to me spending some time on the Internet researching feasibility. Upon realizing that our own near-space mission would be challenging but possible, I let the idea “incubate” for a few days. When Big Kid’s interest did not wane either, the project was born!
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