My students live and learn in the heart of one of Virginia's largest cities. Our school, which is a military specialty school within our city's public school system, attracts students who want a more structured learning environment. We have students in grades six through twelve, and every high school student is a cadet in the JROTC program.
My students are bright and capable, just waiting for something to inspire them to greatness.
While many of them articulate a desire to “make video games,” or to be computer engineers, few if any have ever had the grit to teach themselves anything about computers or programming. Until now, they have never had the opportunity, and they continue to be vastly under-represented in the field.
In April 2019 we will be launching our second annual, high altitude balloon to the edge of space! Why high altitude ballooning? In 2009, three MIT students made national news when they published photographs of the blackness of space using little more than a cell phone, a camera, and an extremely large balloon. The thing that struck me about the news coverage, was how smart the MIT students were portrayed, and with good reason. It occurred to me, however, that the only difference between those students and mine is that MIT students are expected to accomplish great and exciting things. I want the world to expect great things from my students for a change; and, I want them to expect great things from themselves.
This capstone project will be the culmination of numerous investigations - from soldering electronics and transmitting information using electromagnetic waves to the physics and engineering of free fall, and the effects of low temperatures on computing and chemistry.
From our first launch, we successfully recovered the flight computer, which provides GPS and image telemetry, the GoPro video recorder, a redundant GPS tracker, the radar deflector, and the recovery parachute. We have a new weather balloon. All we need now is the helium and a beautiful Spring day.
Most importantly, we have three classes of eager middle school students. They are working hard to understand the complexities of [near] space travel. I can't wait to build up to this moment when we show the world what we can do!
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