Monthly Archives: January 2012

Week 1: Survey and Opening the Kit

One of the unusual facets of running a program that is part of a dissertation research project is that there is paperwork to be done.  In this case, students interested in the program need a signed permission (or ‘informed consent’) form for the university.  After returning permission forms, students then take a simple survey, called the TOSRA — the Test of Science Related Attitudes.  This is the meat of Mr. Verhage’s project, which will help determine whether participating as part of the balloon satellite build team influences peoples’ attitudes toward science, scientists, and science careers.

Our build team completed their permission forms and surveys, and on Thursday, January 26 we “broke the seal” on the BalloonSat kit.  (By the way, similar kits called “Balloon Sat Mini” are available from Mr. Verhage’s Nearsys products website.)

The first after-school session included familiarizing the build team with the new workzone (makerzone, hackerspace) I created in my classroom, including the basic tools and equipment we have at our disposal.  We also talked a bit about safety, soldering, the components in the kit, and the phases we will go through in our build process.

Our meeting time was limited, so we re-packaged our build kit and scheduled our next meeting–Tuesday, January 31.

Preamble: Strange links to interesting places.

In the fall of 2009 I was starting my fourth year of teaching physics at Ottawa High School.  My wife Diana was a library assistant at the local library, and she sent me a message about an event happening at the Topeka Public Library (TSCPL), a presentation by someone billed as “The Street Astronomer”.

The presentation was an interesting tour of the night sky, aimed mainly to a younger audience (but still quite enjoyable as an adult).  It turns out that The Street Astronomer is L. Paul Verhage, an astronomy enthusiast, educator, and an education Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas.  We chatted briefly after his presentation, and I began following his Twitter feed and blog.

I periodically saw updates on his Twitter feed and blog, but noticed sometime in early 2011 that his updates had been slow for some time.  I visited his webpage and found a notice–he was looking for teachers who could organize a team of students to build a balloon satellite as part of his dissertation research.  I sent an email immediately inquiring about the project, and once he described it, I said “we’re in!”

The build window was scheduled to begin in the Spring 2012 semester, so at our beginning-of-the-year faculty meeting, I announced the plan to put together a balloon satellite build team to take advantage of this great opportunity.

In the following months, students periodically heard about the project, and several asked how to get involved.  After receiving information from Mr. Verhage in December, I made the formal announcement to the students that it was time to sign up.  Eighteen interested students showed up at my door over the next few days, and six were chosen to be the official build team.

Hello OHS Balloon Satellite fans!

Welcome to the OHS Balloon Satellite group webpage.  This group of students at OHS is building a near-space balloon satellite as part of a University of Kansas researcher’s project on science education.

Follow along with future posts for information on how this group came to be, our progress, and ultimately our flight information and data report.