Florida Space Grant Consortium

Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project for Florida students from Univ. of Central Florida, Univ. of North Florida, and Florida International University.

The NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium in partnership with Spaceloon and the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEBP) is offering an opportunity for 14 students (US Citizens only and 18 years or older) who are enrolled in any of the following 3 universities (University of Central Florida, Florida International University and University of North Florida) to participate in a Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning project for 2 years starting Fall of 2022. This will involve observing the Annular Solar Eclipse in 2023 and the Total Solar Eclipse in 2024 using payloads on a weather balloon. Selected students will also be offered a scholarship of $2000/year for 2 years. Students must commit to this project for the entirety of the 2 years, starting in the Fall of 2022. In this program, team(s) of students will work together to successfully launch a weather balloon from Texas and Arkansas and collect live data from the payload as it travels up to 100,000 feet hogh. 

NEBP is an innovative NASA-mission-like adventure in data acquisition and analysis through scientific ballooning during the 10/14/2023 annular and 4/8/2024 total solar eclipses. NEBP includes development and implementation of two learner-centered activity tracks – engineering and atmospheric science. At sites along the eclipse path, student teams in the engineering track will use innovative larger balloon systems to live stream video to the NASA eclipse website, observe in situ perturbations in atmospheric phenomena, and conduct individually designed experiments. Atmospheric science track teams will make frequent observations by launching hourly radiosondes on helium-filled weather balloons. Student participants will work with atmospheric science experts throughout the project and will publish results in peer-reviewed journals.  There is no cost to the student to participate in the project. Travel costs to Texas and Arkansas will be paid by FSGC.

Preparation will begin with the selection of 14 students (these students will be known as Florida Balloon Eclipse (FBE) scholars) that will divided into 1~2 teams. Once the teams are selected, they will have to submit a proposal (with the help of FSGC) to the NEBP program. If the NEBP organizers select the teams,  we will be provided with the equipment and travel support for the eclipse balloon launches in Texas and Arkansas. Discussions on possible experiments, hardware & program will take place through a number of virtual and live Sessions. The exact date and times will be determined later.

All selected students will receive a scholarship of $2,000 per year (i.e., $4,000 in total). The scholarship duration is for 2 years starting from the Fall semester of 2022. Students must commit to this project for the entirety of the 2 years. 

Only US citizens (18 years or older) enrolled in  any of the following 3 universities (University of Central Florida, Florida International University and University of North Florida) and studying in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM)-related discipline are eligible for this project. Please see eligibility requirements below. The goal of the program is to train and recruit Florida science/engineering students (US citizens only) into the aerospace & aviation workforce as future employees, while encouraging further study and academic achievement.

To ensure successful participation, each student must commit at least 40 hours of online/remote training and at least 80 hours of in-person, hands-on training time prior to the 10/14/2023 annular eclipse.

Interested students should submit a completed application package to FSGC that includes a personal objective statement discussing educational and career goals, and the benefits derived from a Space Grant scholarship, 1 letter of recommendation, Applications are to be submitted to the FSGC.

Application and Program structure – Deadline September 9, 2022

Students will submit their application online at https://ucf.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3f4RXvTpYTlD7Cu, by September 9, 2022 and will include the following (details in the link above):

1) Essays

  • Interest in weather ballooning
    200 word essay on why you are interested in the eclipse ballooning project.
  • Relevant experience and awards
    Describe any relevant work, military, or co-op experience, awards, and/or honors. (200 words or less)

2) Contact information for faculty/advisor/chair reference or recommendation. Recommendation letter must be emailed to Dr. Jaydeep Mukherjee (jaydeep.mukherjee@ucf.edu) by September 9, 2022

3) Student’s contact and education information (university, GPA, current GPA & standing – e.g., freshman)

4) Post-graduation plans / professional school / graduate school / aerospace related employment

Scholarship Information

The stipends will be paid directly to the students by FSGC through a third party, Education Program Student Services. For the 2022-23 academic year, Scholars will be paid a total of $2,000, in two stages. 50% of the 2022-23 stipend will be paid to the student within 30 days of the NEBP acceptance date (scheduled Nov. 2022), provided the students have submitted the paperwork provided to them after the notice of their selection. The remaining 50% of the 2022-23 stipend will be paid by March of 2023, provided the students have actively taken part in the project by attending all the required workshops and webinars.

For the 2023-24 Academic Year, the scholars will be paid $2000 as a stipend provided they have actively participated in the 2022-23 eclipse project. For the 2023-24 academic Year, the first 50% of the scholarship will be paid by the end of October 2023 and the final 50% by the end of April 2024, provided the students have participated the 2023 annular eclipse launch and the 2024 total eclipse launch.

Eligibility requirements for the students are:

  • Scholars must be US citizens. (Permanent residents are not eligible)
  • Scholars must be 18 years or older.
  • At least half-time enrollment in UCF, FIU, or UNF.

Reporting Requirements

  • FBE Scholars are required to submit a one-page written summary on how your ideas of careers with NASA and space industry have changed after their scholarship period.
  • One-page technical summary on your experience with the ballooning project.

FSGC reserves the right to require additional information / reports / waivers as may be required to comply with funding agency requirements at any time during the scholarship and within 1 year from the scholarship end date.

Timeline:

  • August 5, 2022 – Request for student scholars released
  • September 9, 2022 – Closing date for student applications
  • September 23, 2022 – Selected Students / FBE Scholars informed
  • December, 2022- Program commences, Scholars paid their first 50% provided they have submitted all the required paperwork.
  • Jan 2023 ~ April, 2024 – Participating NEBP project (the detailed activities and timelines will be announced later).
  • March 31, 2023 – Scholars will be paid their final 50% for the 2022-23 project year provided that they have taken part in the activities.
  • For the 2023-24 Academic Year, the scholars will be paid $2000 as a stipend provided, they have actively participated in the 2022-23 eclipse project. For the 2023-24 academic Year, the first 50% of the scholarship will be paid by the end of October 2023 and the final 50% by the end of April 2024, provided the students have participated the 2023 annular eclipse launch and the 2024 total eclipse launch.

For questions on the scholarships or the ballooning program, please contact FSGC Director, Dr. Jaydeep Mukherjee (jaydeep.mukherjee@ucf.edu)

Useful links

  • Ballooning FAQ and a Balloon Launch overview

http://wyomingspacegrant.org/balloonprogram/faq/

http://wyomingspacegrant.org/balloonprogram/balloonlaunch101/

  • COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) products

                 https://www.highaltitudescience.com/collections/all

  • Central Washington University “Weather Balloon Payload Box” Undergrad Project

In 2017, Mechanical Engineering and Physics students designed a weather balloon payload box capable of withstanding the anticipated impact force and implemented a rotating camera-platform which could transmit live-images to the “ground station” during balloon ascent. $400 budget, no radiosonde—only temperature sensors to check the insulation of the payload box.

https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1047&context=undergradproj

  • Robert Lowe “HabPi: An Open Source Extensible Framework for HighAltitude Balloon Data Collection”

The paper details a simple weather balloon project program for students (adaptable to most common mission cases), including costs, how-to notes on assembly, etc. “HabPi” (modified Raspbery Pi) sensor array is argued to be superior central control unit for use in a multitude of balloon projects. https://www.iastatedigitalpress.com/ahac/article/5/galley/5411/view/              

  • Case Study: SHARE Mission, 2020

SHARE 2020 FALL – Student ONE Slide Reports – Google Slides

Students will learn about subjects such as meteorology, telemetry and how NASA takes different variables into account to perform missions, very similar to these. They will also learn about payload integration and how to plan and efficiently carry out a weather balloon launch. Students will develop payloads to be sent on the weather balloon conducting experiments and gather results as it ascends and descends through the atmosphere.