The NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) has teamed with Telefonica, Satlantis and the University of Florida (UF) to provide a unique experience to high school students from Spain and Florida that involves designing, building, and flying scientific payloads on a weather balloon that will reach an altitude of 100,000 feet (three times the altitude of commercial airliners). The project is jointly sponsored by Telefonia, FSGC, University of Florida and Satlantis
The Project involved a three-stage process that introduced joint teams of high school students of 15 to 16 years old in Spain and Florida and their teachers to the small satellite technology, and culminated with a prestigious Summer School.
The main purpose was to grow interest and steer high school students to STEM-related fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by implementing an extensive hands-on competitive program based on designing, building and flying scientific and engineering payloads on a weather balloon. Eventually, these payloads will be included in small satellites and launched using sounding rockets. The final stage of this program will allow the winning teams to build their payloads in Florida, and launch them from a location adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center. The cultural exchange of this international program combined with the educational knowledge in state-of-the-art space technology makes this program the first of its kind in the world.
– First Stage of the Project: Teacher Training
The first stage of the Project was to train the teachers at each participating high school. Through web-based communications, interested teachers from each high school were trained on how to implement the design phase in their respective schools and how to assist and mentor the students who will take part in the project during the school term. The training familiarized the teachers with flying scientific and engineering payloads on a weather balloon. Design parameters and payload objectives were established for the next phase of the program, which will include guiding and supervising students to produce a competitive design. The teachers were also given the tools needed to accomplish the design phase.
– Second Stage of the Project: Competitive Design
The second stage of the Project is to introduce high school students to the payloads technology for small satellites in three main areas: Physical Sciences (including Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, and Geology), Life Sciences, and Engineering. The program was carried out by the teachers who completed the first phase with weekly online support from the instructors selected by FSGC. Teachers were in charge of mentoring, instructing, and supervising the proposals for payloads to be carried out by joint FL-ES teams of six students each (three students from Florida and three students from Spain). Students regularly interacted through web based methods (e.g., chat, video chat,) to discuss the projects at their respective schools. This phase spanned from April 1, 2014 to May 31, 2014. At the end of the spring term, FSGC instructors reviewed all proposals and select the top design to move on to the next stage of the competition.
– Third Stage of the Project: Summer School
The final phase was a two-week Summer School (July 14, to July 25, 2014) organized by FSGC for the winning joint teams of students and their teachers (eighteen students and six teachers).
The first week of the two-week workshop was held at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and involved building the payload based on the winning design. During the second week, the team relocated to the NASA Kennedy Space Center area where they integrated their payload on the weather balloon for launch and subsequent data analysis.
Winning team and design
5 teams (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Foxtrot1, and Foxtrot2) participated in the competition. Each team comprised of 3 students from Gainesville, Fl and 3 students from Spain. The winning team was the Charlie team and their experiment was titled “How does the environment affect the power generation by solar cells in space?”