Day 24- Pedagogy/Starting Wrap Up

Today started off great because it was the first day that I didn’t arrive at 7 am, so I was able to sleep in!.  We met in groups with teachers from our subject areas, and talked about our lesson plans.  It was great and reminded me of grad school; we used a rubric and thoroughly reviewed other’s plans.

We were asked to think about 3 questions:

How has this experience changed your perspective of research?
How has it impacted your idea of your own competence in research?
How do you envision changes in your own classroom as a result of this experience?

From my experience of research during my undergraduate days, I wasn’t a huge fan.  It seemed like research wasn’t very relevant, and that you would have to spend years doing others research before you can get to something meaningful. The Boston University Photonics RET has changed my perspective and made me feel research can be fun and you can do your own research.  I feel like I am at a level of research that I wouldn’t have achieved without completing this program.

My classroom is also a changed place because of this experience.  I envision having a classroom in which students do more individual research as opposed to already created laboratories.  I will also be using the Lesson Plans that we developed this summer to get more of a physics approach into my intro Biology class.

Otherwise, we worked on our powerpoint presentations, which we will be presenting on Wednesday morning, and our posters, which will be presented from 3-5pm on Thursday. 

Lunch was provided and we had the opportunity to talk with the REU’s; Undergraduates who were completing summer research experiences.  They were completely awesome at being able to talk about what they wish they had learned about Science in high school.  I will take back their lessons (scribbled on pages in my notebook) and apply them to my classroom.

Fjodor and I completed a rough outline of our powerpoint, with the plan to finish it up Monday.  I can’t believe I only have 5 more days left in this program!

Oh yeah…and Stephanie made this.  While I’m not a Physics teacher, everything else is accurate

Day 23- Balloon Recovery #2

I started out today early because I wanted to beat traffic into the city.  So I was into the Photonics center at BU around 7:30 am.  I happened to check out the map and see that our balloon was still transmitting it’s GPS location, so that was an awesome sign.

We had a follow up interview with Leslie Friday, and she brought with her Syndey (her last name I completely missed), who took photos of us and we talked at great lengths about the Balloon Launch.  It was nice to get to talk about the experience so quickly after it happening. We told Leslie and Syndey that we would be retrieving the Balloon during the afternoon and keep them updated.

I then set up a Dropbox Shared Folder so everyone would be able to access each other’s pictures. 

We then left for Dover, Vermont, and stopped at the Leominster Home Depot along the way.  Nate brought in his fishing pole.  We bought a snow roof rake, a saw, some really heavy duty rope, some thinner rope, and hooks. 

We went out and used my bow and arrow to try and arc over the payload line.  I made it the first shot, and we had tied the fishing line to the arrow so we had a line over that we could pull back with the heavier duty rope.  We were at this for a couple of hours, but it was too high in the tree.

We ended up having to cut down the tree.  I felt a little guilty, but it would provide opportunities for other types of plants to grow in the space that now allowed the sun to hit the forest floor. 

The payload was stuck still in another tree, but we were able to use the roof rake to scoop it down.


We went out for dinner and drinks to celebrate, and looked at the pictures.  Amazing.  I’m excited to sort through these.  Here’s the preview:


Day 22- Balloon Launch & Recovery Attempt

Today we launched our 1200 gram balloon from Mt. Greylock State Reservation in Lanesborough, MA.  We launched right near the visitors center, in a big field.

We started the day by loading everything into my car, while the other cars took the passengers.  Here’s a picture to show you how crowded it was.


It took us about 3 hours to convoy out there, and I insisted that we stop for coffee because many of us were running on very little sleep.  We arrived at the launch site around 11:30 am, and started the process of assembling everything.

Nate started filling the balloon while Fjodor and I worked on assembling the payload packages.  I turned on the cameras and started the script (which takes pictures every 5 seconds automatically) and the Arduino to start logging temperatures.

Fjodor worked on testing our communication systems via, and everything worked out.  We assembled everything and launched around 1:25 pm.  Jean started the cutoff mechanism right around 1:10, so 3:17 would be the time where the mechanism starts cutting through the rope and releasing it from the balloon.

Here’s a video of the actual launch!

Balloon Launch 8/1 BUSAT


We were using our smartphones and Nate’s callsign to track where the balloon was in real time by using  It worked out great, and we received signal that it reached 95,000 feet and landed in Dover, Vermont.

 2012-08-05 01.15.16 pm

We ended up tracking it into the woods, and found the Balloon, but it was in a tree.  We didn’t have a way of getting it down, so we had to leave it there and regroup.  It ended up being right off of VAST trails in Vermont, which are public land, and it was high up in a tree that we weren’t worried about something happening to the balloon.


On the ride home, we formulated a plan using a bow and arrow attached to fishing line.  If we shot that over, we could tie rope to where the arrow was, and pull a heavier duty string over the tree to pull it down.  We stopped in Gardner, MA, where I grew up, and picked up my bow and arrow, with the though of going back out tomorrow to retrieve our payloads.

Day 21- Hours of Work Come Together

Today was an incredibly long day- I got to work for 7 am and started working on fixing the code that wasn’t working.  I was still having problems, but I knew that around 9 am I would be able to get some help.

I worked on doing final soldering and hot gluing of our circuits, so everything would be ready to put into the boxes as soon as I figured out the code issues.  I ended up working with David C. from the lab, and we were able to get the code working.

We had a last minute meeting to talk about everything that needed to be done during the afternoon.  We divided up jobs and went work assembling the boxes and make sure everything would hold up to the rough winds of space.

I had to run out to the hardware store and Radioshack for last minute supplies like tubing and batteries.  Everything went well, it just took a ton of time to assemble everything.  Here’s a picture of the box that contains our temperature sensors and our cameras, which are under the duct tape.


Tomorrow we need to weigh the boxes so we can find out how much lift that we need and design a counterweight before driving to Mount Greylock.

Day 20- Writing Code/ Building Boxes

Today I spent a majority of the day writing code for our Arduino, which had the sole job of saving the temperature sensor data. I spent hours reading articles about how to save to an SD card, but it wasn’t working as expected, and I had 5 different temperature sensors that I needed to save the data from.


During this time, my lab partner was assembling the payload boxes across the street, so that we would just have to put our electronics in it.

We had a brown bag lunch where everyone talked about their subsystem documentation, as it was due by 3 pm today to Nate so he could put it all in a document to send for review.

We then had a brief meeting to talk about progress on assembling everything, and we were feeling pretty good about what we had to do.

In the afternoon, I went back to trying to code for the Arduino to save the temperature data. I was having a ton of problems with it, so I had a lot of guys from the lab help me out with writing the code.  It ended up being after 7pm and everyone had to leave, so we figured that we could finish it the next morning.

Unfortunately, my partner wasn’t as productive as I had hoped, and only assembled one box- and took off early, which was a little frustrating.  I hope tomorrow goes smoother!

Day 19- Labs with Teachers/ Lesson Plans

Today started off with running the laboratories with running the temperature sensor laboratory as well as the Monte Carlo Method laboratory with the teachers.  The temperature sensors that were built were hot glued together and will be flown on our high altitude balloon next Wednesday. 


The Monte Carlo method is a way of predicting, using known data (like NOAA weather data in our case) where an object has the greatest probability of landing.  In our case, we can predict landing sites based on known weather patterns and a known launch site (Mt. Greylock).

We approximated landing sites, the cluster near the Vermont/NH border is a launch from Mt. Greylock, while the pins at sea were from a launch from the Photonics center in Boston.


We spent the rest of the day talking about what lessons we will take back to share with our students.  I will take back the importance of collaboration and maybe the use of lab notebooks.  Also, I will take back the perspective of being someone who has lived in the city- completely different from my life in Western MA.

Day 18- Lab Prep and Interview

We spent most of today getting ready for doing the laboratories with the RET teachers tomorrow.  This included printing a gigantic map of the state of Massachusetts, buying pushpins and setting up and testing 5 different laboratory kits meant to be used by each group to build their thermocouples.

We were a little late for lunch, and showed up to find out that we were being interview by Leslie Friday of BU Today.  She interviewed each teacher group to find out more about their experiences and the RET program as a whole.  It was a great time!

Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures today, sorry guys!

I’m taking off a little early (like right now after I post this) to go out for my Mom’s birthday!  I’m excited!

Day 17- Filmed and Edited Lab #2,

Today we finished filming how to go through laboratory #2, and edited it using iMovie.

Lab #2 Temperature Sensors

We finished that up right before lunch, and ended up resoldering some of the breakout boards we had created, because they weren’t making great contact. Chris taught us how to use continuity testing to test, a great technique that is coming in handy.

We had a meeting with everyone involved on the Balloon Launch after lunch, where we laid out all of our supplies and made sure we would be set for the launch next Wednesday.

At this point, we decided that we had to test the radios that we would be using; one was programmed with Nate’s callsign and transmitted GPS location to APRS.  We finally got it working when we went on the roof of the CAS Building.  This took most of the afternoon, and we also tested the beacon that broadcasted a signal only 3 miles, so we would be able to find the general location with a directional antenna.  Here’s a view from the CAS roof.


Day 16- Lab 2, Cleanroom Part 2

During our time in the lab this morning, we worked on completing laboratory #2 and revising our lesson plans so that we would be able to start filming very soon and ultimately make a video that accompanies laboratory 2 about making temperature sensors.

We had a brown bag lunch with Selim Unlu, and it was awesome to hear how busy of a guy he is.  Professor Unlu is a fantastic speaker, and had us captivated with the general theme focused on “The Practice of Research.” 

After lunch, we did some deposition up in the clean room.  It went pretty smooth, and we finally had our first wafers finished.  Here’s what mine looks like:


Day 15- Art Supplies and Building

We started today off by editing our first film and posting it on Youtube.  This means that we finally finished everything associated with laboratory #1.

Laboratory #1- Introduction to Electronics

We headed to Blick Art Store in the landmark center, and bought entirely too much foam.



photo (1)

We had a brown bag lunch with BUSAT, and the theme was around the final push.  Documentation was being created by each subsystem and put together into a final design document.  Each subsystem group shared where they were in the process.

We spent the afternoon constructing the cutoff mechanism with Jean and working on different aspects of the balloon.  I built the cutoff mechanism box while Jean worked on testing the cutoff mechanism, Fjodor worked on creating the Adafruit Data Logger Shield from the kit that we ordered.  It looks like it will be a busy week!