Boulder High and Peak to Peak Charter School students are sending projects they designed up above 10000 feet later this month on United Launch Alliance's ...and more »
Boulder High and Peak to Peak Charter School students are sending projects they designed up above 10,000 feet later this month on United Launch Alliance's Future Heavy intern rocket.
The 53-foot-tall, high-power sport rocket launch is set to take off June 24 at Spaceport America in New Mexico during the annual Spaceport America Cup International Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition.
Since 2009, United Launch Alliance has teamed up with Ball Aerospace to offer its interns a real-world space industry experience. In 2010, the program expanded to include payloads from K-12 students.
Kate Berg, an incoming Peak to Peak senior, worked on her first payload for the project as an eighth-grader. For that first project, a group led by a senior sent up a GoPro camera, but didn't recover it after the launch.
Last year was the first time her payload — a weather sensor device — successfully launched and was recovered, illustrating the challenge level of the project.
This year, Berg built a capsule that uses a laser-based digital detector to look for other payloads, waiting to eject the parachute until it's in a clear spot. An altimeter provides a backup in case there's not a clear space before it gets too close to the ground. There's also a GPS to aid in recovery.
"Each year, I figure out what went wrong," she said. "You just learn so much from each one. If it failed, I need to fix it and make it work."
Her brother, Peak to Peak incoming eighth-grader Matthew Berg, also is participating, building an experiment to see how much energy he can retrieve as the device falls using solar panels and a turbine.
Both of their experiments will go up in the same cardboard tube for the launch. They're limited to a 6-inch diameter and 5 pounds or fewer. The objects also can't fall faster than 20 mph, with parachutes slowing them down.
The two said they started by figuring out everything they wanted to include inside, then designing an outside case that would fit. They used a 3-D printer to make the plastic pieces for their cases.
"I went through a lot of different prototypes and a lot of plastic," she said.
Both said they're looking forward to the launch after working for months on their experiments "at home, in the basement on weekends."
"It's really cool to see," Matthew said.
Several other Peak to Peak projects were chosen, including parachutes created by the kindergarten class and a Kevlar phone case.
At Boulder High, juniors Nate Kuczun, Ryan Oroke and Carter Mak designed two experiments for the launch.
One is a camera rig that can record 360-degree video of the free fall from 10,000 feet, with four parachutes to keep it stable. The second is a remote control plane with a small camera to help them pilot it.
One of the challenges, they said, is making sure what they send up can survive 100 Gs of force when they're ejected from the rocket.
"It's a glorified bomb to get them out," Carter said.
Like their Peak to Peak counterparts, they said, designing their payloads required extensive trial and error. Originally, the plane was going to be a quadcopter, but it was too unstable as it fell. Then they tried a one-wing plane before switching to their final biplane design.
"It's a learning experience," Kuczun said. "We've learned so much. It's just a really interesting thing to do."
Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/boundsa
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