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Annapolis Royal students to live stream from the stratosphere


ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - Students who successfully launched and retrieved a space probe last year are back in business, but this time they hope to live stream from the stratosphere.

“We’ll basically be able to get live information sent back this year,” said Finn Hafting who is working on project design. “We’re trying to get a live Facebook feed going so that people can log on and see what the balloon is seeing as it’s going up.”

Hafting is one of 10 Annapolis West Education Centre students working on the Annapolis Royal Space Agency project with physics/art teacher Derrick Smith. They’re looking at a mid-May launch date.

“We’re getting a bigger balloon this year so we can compensate for having a heavier probe and fitting all of the radio gear inside,” said Hafting, adding that he’s trying to nail down what brand of APRS tracking device they’ll use, the radio camera they’ll use, and figure out how to get the analogue signal from the radio to a digital signal that could be uploaded to Facebook. Or it could be Youtube live streaming.

And he expects this year’s probe will go a bit higher than last year’s 30,000 metres. That’s 30 kilometres.

If it sounds complicated, it is. But that’s the point – problem solving.

 

The Package

Last year on June 2 the space agency launched a balloon with a Styrofoam box slung beneath it. Three GoPro cameras were fastened to it and it had a small computer board with a device that recorded altitude, temperature, flight path, coordinates, speed, and other information onto a micro Secure Digital card. The tracking device inside the probe was motion activated and when it went to sleep during the gentle voyage across the province, it failed to wake up – even when the balloon exploded from the expanding helium and the package parachuted back to earth. Despite a chase team hot on its heels, the team couldn’t find the probe until a month later Hafting checked the tracking device app and sure enough, it had pinged. They found it July 8 in Newburne north of New Germany – 500 metres from where they had predicted it would land.

“We’ll basically be able to get live information sent back this year,” said Finn Hafting who is working on project design. “We’re trying to get a live Facebook feed going so that people can log on and see what the balloon is seeing as it’s going up.”

Hafting is one of 10 Annapolis West Education Centre students working on the Annapolis Royal Space Agency project with physics/art teacher Derrick Smith. They’re looking at a mid-May launch date.

“We’re getting a bigger balloon this year so we can compensate for having a heavier probe and fitting all of the radio gear inside,” said Hafting, adding that he’s trying to nail down what brand of APRS tracking device they’ll use, the radio camera they’ll use, and figure out how to get the analogue signal from the radio to a digital signal that could be uploaded to Facebook. Or it could be Youtube live streaming.

And he expects this year’s probe will go a bit higher than last year’s 30,000 metres. That’s 30 kilometres.

If it sounds complicated, it is. But that’s the point – problem solving.

 

The Package

Last year on June 2 the space agency launched a balloon with a Styrofoam box slung beneath it. Three GoPro cameras were fastened to it and it had a small computer board with a device that recorded altitude, temperature, flight path, coordinates, speed, and other information onto a micro Secure Digital card. The tracking device inside the probe was motion activated and when it went to sleep during the gentle voyage across the province, it failed to wake up – even when the balloon exploded from the expanding helium and the package parachuted back to earth. Despite a chase team hot on its heels, the team couldn’t find the probe until a month later Hafting checked the tracking device app and sure enough, it had pinged. They found it July 8 in Newburne north of New Germany – 500 metres from where they had predicted it would land.

The Annapolis Royal Space Agency – a group of students from Annapolis West Education Centre – launched their first space probe June 2, 2016. A locator beacon inside the box failed to wake up and the box was missing for more than a month. Students later tracked it to a location north of New Germany.

Radio Technology

This year the box will be filled with tracking redundancies, Smith said. And this year’s project involves additional training and help from experts outside the school. Four students are working with the Annapolis Valley Amateur Radio Club to gain ham radio certification – necessary to operate the new probe.

“They’re a must,” said Smith, in reference to the amateur radio club members. “When we reached out to them … next thing we know they were down here. And they’re so giving of their time and we thought ‘let’s get our ham radio operating license’ because that would be an added value thing to the project. So a few of us have signed on to do that.”

Abigail Bonnington is one of the students training with the radio club. But she’s also filling out grant proposals because the project does have a cost. And other students are working on marketing, crowdsourcing, and publicity.

Erich Gennette, Julia Hall, Tayler Milbury, Karlee Milbury, Aaron Jonitz, Grace-Lyn Longmire, Griffin Batt, and Adam Haddar are also part of the group.

Members of the 2016 Annapolis Royal Space Agency when they finally retrieved their probe July 8, 2016 near the Lunenburg County Winery. The probe had gone missing after they launched it into the stratosphere June 2.

GPS Data Logger

Gennette was busy taking components of last year’s probe and making them smaller to cut down on weight and make them more reliable.

“I’m wiring up the GPS data logger for our space probe,” said Gennette who wrote code for the project last year. “Basically what you do is you’re recording these coordinates from our GPS sensor which goes on our Arduino Nano board now instead of our Uno board and that is parsing all that data into readable data that we can put into Google Earth to record our path.”

It still sounds complicated.

“Problem solving that is required is the best part about this because as you saw last year we tried our best, we worked at that thing several times a week and we still lost it,” Smith said. “But we found it. And everything had to be solved through problem solving. You can’t give up. And that’s the thing I like the most. There’s certainly a lot of hands-on things, but it’s really the problem solving.”

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