Experienced HABer Buce Sidlinger took his first ever high school class on a journey to not only build and fly their first ever high altitude balloon, but to build and assemble all the components they needed to do it - from PCs to flight computers. The students rose to the challenge and not only created a project that involved many students and tons in the community, but also demonstrated a camera stabilization platform that is quite remarkable. That will definitely come in handy for the solar eclipse launches in 2017! We are proud to be awarding the Flagstaff High School Eagles the first place prize for the most educational initiative for their incredible accomplishments and can't wait to see what they do next.
Full report: here
From the team: "First a bit of background: My name is Bruce Sidlinger and in 1985 I founded an aerospace and telecommunications engineering company that has done work for NASA and the US Air Force. Over the decades, I noticed that the project and problem-solving skills of college graduates seeking first technical jobs were increasingly lacking. I finally decided to see if I could help, even if but on a tiny scale.
I had previously become aware of the Global Space Balloon Challenge through volunteering to help a 6th grade class with a launch. (http://azdailysun.com/news/local/education/up-up-and-away-npa-students-explore-boundary-to-space/article_e0c33b00-ac16-11e3-95ef-001a4bcf887a.html) I now decided to build a high school engineering curriculum around the GSBC. I spent a couple of years developing a course and getting a teaching certificate then was hired by the Flagstaff Unified School District in Arizona to teach aerospace engineering at Flagstaff High School.
On August 6th, 2015, the first day of my life as a K-12 teacher, about twenty brave and adventurous FHS students appeared in my classroom, and very graciously gave a beginning teacher the benefit of the doubt. One characteristic of the course was that it would exclusively use free, open-source, and multiplatform software, because in a diverse public high school student population (including many Native Americans in our case) you cannot make any assumptions about the financial means of the students and I didn’t want them to learn software that they couldn’t later run their own copies of, on any system they might have. This made Room 207 the only classroom in a district of 10,000 students to run Linux. So, after a brief discussion of how to open up tower PCs and how to avoid ESD damage, every student disassembled the old leftover Windows XP systems the district had provided and installed memory that had been donated to us. About a third of the power supplies had failed so in that first week we also learned about electrical safety, voltmeters, cables, connectors, and pinouts and replaced them. Then we discussed BIOS and disk partitioning and used some donated USB thumb drives to install Ubuntu.
August 6th was a Thursday, by Friday everyone had a working computer. We were getting off to a fast start. http://azdailysun.com/news/local/education/aerospace-engineering-class-new-to-flagstaff-high-school/article_0b5757ba-88ad-5b5f-a84a-e3affd811c7a.html
The next week each student installed FreeCAD and we spent a few weeks learning parametric 3D CAD to design GoPro camera mounts for a high-altitude balloon. We were already on task for our April launch and as each student finalized their design we assembled an open-source 3D printer and actually machined our first parts.
We then all started learning about radio since we would need APRS to track our flight. Every student earned a Federal Communications Commission technician-class amateur radio license!
We applied for and received a grant (thanks, FUSD Foundation!) to purchase Arduino-based robot kits and used them to learn digital electronics and C-like programming. We also briefly detoured into rocketry, using Open Rocket simulation software and then assembling and launching rockets. We even 3D printed a rocket! And we studied R/C airplanes and multirotors. But every part of the course somehow related to our our GSBC entry.
By this point, we wanted to not just enter the Global Space Balloon Challenge, we wanted to win! So after looking at videos posted from other launches, and since we had learned about MEMS gyros in our multirotor unit, we decided our payload would feature a stabilized camera. And it worked.
Flagstaff is “America’s First STEM City” (http://azdailysun.com/news/local/rd-community-stem-event-honors-students-teachers/article_232a597a-1a2a-5340-b8b9-fa22f6653777.html) and the local newspaper has a terrific full-time education reporter. She attended and wrote a great story about our launch day. http://azdailysun.com/news/local/flagstaff-high-students-send-their-work-out-of-this-world/article_d6af16d1-76dc-5464-b05e-9129db3fccd0.html
America’s public school system is excellent at bringing students up to speed on individual subjects over the years, paying strict attention to building foundations of prerequisite knowledge and formally ensuring that students are prepared for college admission. This is critical and I have the greatest respect for professional teachers, especially so for teachers implementing NGSS and comparably rigorous standards. Our course was completely different, we just flew at the tasks and counted on determination and enthusiasm to get us through. It was a wild ride but we had a blast!
The students: Madison KI7DTE, Seth KI7DDH, Mitch KI7DDQ, Carlos KI7DDO, Shane KI7DDM, Seth KI7EFF, Matt KI7DDP, Finn KG7ZXO, Charles KI7DDR, Noah KI7DDI, Audreana KI7EFH, Kate KI7DDK, Luke KI7DDJ, Joey KI7DTD, Peyton KG7ZXJ, Jacob KI7EFE, and Jackson KI7DDL.
Our principal (also a pilot!) and our superintendents: Mr. Tony Cullen, Ms. Barbara Hickman, and Mr. Dave Dirksen.
Our awesome chase team: Daniel D. Gitomer and Shannon Auckly.
Our generous sponsors and supportive parents: Too many to list here but so appreciated and acknowledged elsewhere."