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 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 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 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!

Day 14- Problem Based Learning

Today we had a pedagogy session with representatives from the New England Board of Higher Education come make a presentation about Problem Based learning to our group of RET teachers here at Boston University.  Fenna Hanes and Nick Massa were the two representatives.

We talked at length about problem based learning, and creating meaningful experiences for students.  The New England Board of Higher Education has developed many different STEM problems, which enable students to work cooperatively and do some great learning.

Nick talked about how he uses PBL in his college classroom at Springfield Technical Community College, which was nice to hear.  It is very similar to the Bio 100 class I took at UMass Amherst with Professor Zane Barlow-Coleman.  It’s funny how sometimes things come full circle, and it makes you look back and realize how you’ve arrived at the present moment you are now living in.

Day 12- Working in the lab!

Day 12 started out again with us finishing up the first revision of the laboratories.  Fjodor and I finally put them into a form that makes sense to us, and all we need to do now is edit them as we are completing the labs as a student would.  This took until lunch time, but it’s nice to know that we figured out many of the logistical necessities before trying to complete the labs.

We had a meeting after lunch with the Balloon Launch team.  We’re getting close to our August 1st launch date, so we’re working on what logistics need to be solved. We are still waiting on some supplies to arrive, and working out the purchase of local supplies.  We also need to solder some of the parts that came disassembled, which will take most of our Monday afternoon, working with Jean to also complete our protoprototype of the cutoff mechanism for environmental testing.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the lab, working on completing Lab #1- Introduction to Electronics, as we had written it.  We ran into a few problems, but were able to get the laboratory working and completed.  It’s nice to have one completely finished laboratory- We’re not even halfway done yet!

Here is a picture of our first lab introductory activity supplies and our first setup!


Lab #1 Required Materials



Lab #1 LED Setup

Day 10- Almost done labs!

Today started off pretty well- I drove in from Sunderland, like I do on Mondays.  It only took 2 hours and 20 minutes.  I should have left a little earlier, but it happens to the best of us on Mondays. 

Fjodor and I started working on our Mask templates, as we are going in the cleanroom tomorrow.  I have my camera charged and ready to go, because I know tomorrow is going to be a fantastic day for photo opportunities!  Here is a screenshot of my mask template!

2012-07-16 04.08.22 pm

After finishing the mask template, we went to work on the labs.  We are pretty well edited, at least every single one has been touched by both of us- twice.  Around noon, Nate stopped by and gave us our data logger for the high-altitude balloon launch, which had arrived from our first order.

At 12:45pm, we had a BUSAT brown bag lunch, where we watched about the newest Mars mission, and watched the press conference.  It was really cool to watch an interesting event with a lot of people interested in it.  That sounds like a vague statement, but I promise it’s not.

If you’d like to learn more about the Mars Rover, Curiosity, check it out on the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s website:  There are all kinds of educational activities there.

We spent the rest of the day editing laboratories and coming up with an updated timeline of when we hope to accomplish each step.  I decided that I’m going to try to spend the end of each workday blogging, so that I don’t have to spend time outside of here doing so! 

Day 9- Typical day so far!

This week’s pedagogy session was more self-directed, so Fjodor and I have more time to edit laboratories after we finish that.  We spend the beginning of the morning reviewing the required pedagogy materials, and then started editing labs.  I do have some questions to answer for this weeks lab.

What is the hypothesis you are testing?

The hypotheses that we’re testing is as follows:

Near space conditions will not affect the electronics circuits in our homemade temperature sensors.

A modified cell phone with GPS is able to replace a full fledged GPS unit.

What kind of controls does the experiment have?

The controls we will have are manufactured and calibrated thermometers purchased from a local store.

A GPS locator will be placed on board to see how accurate our modified cell phone unit was.
How will you measure your results?

Results will be measured by an Adafruit data logger, which will be connected to our sensors.

How will the reliability of your data be ensured?

Reliability will be ensured with multiple controls, which will allow us to test for internal consistency.

For the rest of the day, Fjodor and I are planning on finishing the editing of a few laboratories, and working on our MASK template for next week’s clean room experiment.  I can’t wait to show you some of those pictures!

Day 8- Editing labs, rejoicing with BUSAT undergrads

Today was again pretty uneventful in our world; we’re making the laboratories better/ easier to understand for high school teachers/ high school students.  We’ve almost finished 2 labs right now, with work done to the other 3 (4 really, we’ve yet to start writing our test balloon lab). 

The cool thing that happened towards the end of today was that the undergraduates in our laboratory finally finished the project that they are working on, and are creating their final document.  They made an model of an optical sensor with a 3d printer, and have been spending countless hours making everything work.  Today, everything finally started to work, and they were able to see, through diffraction, different lights and how many bands there are.  It was really awesome to watch something that started off as a dream to them come to a reality.  While it isn’t groundbreaking research, it’s something that they should be very proud of!  Congrats Jonah and Pete!  I was certainly impressed by your work!