Morgantown, WV, August 30, 2014 - Local NASA Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Educator Resource Center (ERC) manager Todd Ensign dreamed of a way to keep middle and high school rocketry students engaged following their participation in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). He envisioned putting some kind of electronic, computer controlled payload aboard small rockets. As he researched how to further this idea, he found a website for a project called S4 and determined that this project was exactly what he had envisioned. S4 is an acronym for Small Satellites for Secondary Students and was developed by Sonoma State University, Tripoli Rocketry Association’s AeroPac prefecture and the Endeavour Institute.
“Small Satellites for Secondary Students” or “S4”, fills an important “missing link” in NASA’s educational pipeline between Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) and sounding rocket flights that are usually conducted by graduate students at research universities. S4 is a partnership between the Education and Public Outreach group at Sonoma State University, Tripoli Rocketry Association’s AeroPac prefecture and the Endeavour Institute. Through S4, educators can build experimental payloads to fly on tethered weather balloons and/or rockets, enabling students to participate in the thrill of experimental design and implementation. The S4 program has created a hardware platform and software libraries that are documented in an educator’s guide and associated videos. This website also provides provides access to additional resources for the S4 community, including blog posts that describe our progress on the project, links to software libraries, electrical schematics, and parts lists.
Following up on his research, Todd and other ERC employees enlisted a number of local groups in a pilot project to execute a pilot S4 project right here in North Central West Virginia. Numerous groups stepped forward and met the challenge. Two local education groups, both of which already had experience in the TARC program, became involved. One group was from Morgantown Learning Academy and the other was the SCIENEERS home school group. These groups have provided the excited middle school students who are executing the project. In addition, the WVU Department of Physics has been involved as part of an outreach component of the WVU Sounding Rocket Student Program (http://ulysses.phys.wvu.edu/~dimitris/research/suborbital/index.htm
). This group has provided expertise and lab space for soldering, assembly, prior rocket payload experience and prior balloon launch experience. The NASA IV&V ERC (http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ivv/education/educators.html
) has provided funding, drive, leadership, and brought the various groups together for the execution of this pilot project. The West Virginia Rocketry Association (http://wvrocketry.org/
) has provided rocket, assembly, integration, and programming expertise, the rocket for carrying the S4 payload, and the coordination of the Mylan Park launch site.
To date, the groups have met collectively and individually numerous times to complete planning, learning, soldering of electronic components, computer programming for the Arduino which controls the payload, build up the payload and its structure, and rocket development. These efforts have culminated in a successful balloon flight on August 30, 2014 (see related article "Local S4 Pilot Project Marches forward - Rocket Test Launch and Balloon Flight"). Future efforts will involve launching each of the two payloads aboard the custom built S4 rocket during the NASA IV&V ERC October Sky TARC Workshop, which is scheduled to be held on October 11-12, 2014.
Congratulations and Best Wishes are in order for all participants!