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S.P.I.R.I.T. Student Rocket Payload: Characteristics of a Long-duration Undergraduate Research Project

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.890.1 - 6.890.12



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Paper Authors

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Timothy Wheeler

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Dr. Rose Marra

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Dr. Jack Mitchell

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Dr. Charles Croskey

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Student Projects Involving Rocket Investigation Techniques (SPIRIT) used experiential learning and vertical integration techniques to guide students of diverse backgrounds through a three-year design and fabrication process for a complex engineering project. Students from Penn State University, SUNY Geneseo and Lincoln University worked together on the project, with additional support from engineers at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. An active publicity campaign and K-12 outreach program also conducted by undergraduate education and publicity students complemented the technical work. A one-credit course supported project work. By most measures, the project was an unqualified success. This paper reviews our success criteria, the organization and pedagogical methods used in SPIRIT and an assessment of this research project approach to undergraduate education. SPIRIT was designed to be an educational program with a meaningful scientific component. The scientific mission for this payload was to measure temperature and dynamics in the middle atmosphere (65 – 110 km) by four different methods. In addition to the instrumentation, the students designed and built the payload structure and the internal payload systems (including transmitters and data encoders). This work was performed by small groups of students, each focused on an independent aspect of the payload construction. The response to the program from students, faculty and outside agencies has been overwhelminglypositive. AscholarlystudyofstudentmotivationamongSPIRITIstudentshas guided the evolution of the program. SPIRIT II is currently under way and will include a study of mesospheric winds and GPS. We also discuss some of the changes we have made as a result of our experience with SPIRIT I.

Wheeler, T., & Marra, D. R., & Mitchell, D. J., & Croskey, D. C. (2001, June), S.P.I.R.I.T. Student Rocket Payload: Characteristics of a Long-duration Undergraduate Research Project Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9794

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