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Stem Related K 12 Outreach Through High Altitude Balloon Program Collaborations

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Recruiting, Retention and Diversity in Engineering Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1301.1 - 12.1301.14



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Paper Authors


Claude Kansaku Oregon Institute of Technology

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CLAUDE KANSAKU is an Associate Professor of Computer Engineering Technology at OIT. He is a faculty advisor for the LaunchOIT BalloonSat program and is the primary OIT collaborator in the To the Edge of Space high-altitude balloon program. He has taught or co-taught several BalloonSat workshops, including a NSF Chautauqua Short Course for College Teachers.

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Linda Kehr Klamath County School District

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LINDA KEHR is a fifth grade teacher at Ferguson Elementary School (Klamath Falls, OR) and is the primary K-12 collaborator in the To the Edge of Space program. She has numerous years of experience in elementary school education and is an adjunct faculty for Concordia University (Portland, OR) teaching science methods. She currently serves on Oregon Department of Education’s Science Content and Assessment Panel.

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Catherine Lanier Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium

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CATHERINE LANIER is the Assistant Director of the Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium which is housed at Oregon State University. In addition to overseeing the operations of all OSGC programs, she is instrumental in the growth of the Oregon’s BalloonSat program. She created the LaunchOregon identity which currently unifies six affiliate university high-altitude balloon programs.

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STEM-Related K-12 Outreach through High-Altitude Balloon Program Collaborations


A university that develops a program with the capability to launch, chase, and recover helium- filled high-altitude balloon satellites (BalloonSats) enables a number of undergraduate research possibilities. The program faculty and the undergraduates served can also form the engine of an exciting and effective vehicle to perform K-12 outreach related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Nearly identical to weather balloons, low-weight BalloonSats can affordably carry student experiments literally to the edge of space. When the outreach effort is extended and a partnership between the university program and a K-12 classroom forms, the outreach can be transformed from a series of “fire and forget” activities into a genuine, standards-based, educational component.

This paper describes the collaboration between Oregon Institute of Technology’s (OIT’s) BalloonSat program (LaunchOIT) and Ferguson Elementary School in Klamath Falls, Oregon (Ferguson School). LaunchOIT is an affiliate of Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium’s1 (OSGC’s) “LaunchOregon” BalloonSat program. The paper presents some history relating to LaunchOIT, the enabling underpinnings of the OSGC, the OIT-Ferguson School collaboration structure (including some data related to student participants and performance), the benefits of the program collaboration, and how the program looks to sustain itself, particularly considering the auspices of NASA’s educational mission as exercised through the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program2 (Space Grant) efforts.


Near-space, though not legally defined, has been referred to as the region between 65,000 feet and 325,000 feet3 above the Earth. A BalloonSat launch can routinely and relatively inexpensively take an experimental payload into near-space to altitudes exceeding 80,000 feet and, with additional resources, to even higher altitudes that can eclipse 120,000 feet. Access to near-space presents exciting possibilities for undergraduate research in engineering and engineering technology. With a university partner that can serve as a “space operations expert”, K-12 classrooms can also go on a “journey to the edge of space” through collaboration that centers on a high-altitude balloon launch.

OIT has collaborated with Ferguson School since the fall of 2004. The collaboration has since grown into a semi-formal program themed and named, “To the Edge of Space”. Using the capabilities developed through its university-level LaunchOIT program, OIT students and faculty provide the BalloonSat “vehicle” (see Figure 1a), as well as launch and tracking services, for Ferguson School. Elementary students develop experiment payload projects (see Figure 1b) in class and then go through an internal process to select which project or projects will fly on a particular year’s BalloonSat mission. The payloads are concrete outcomes of the math and science inquiry education that the students receive in the classroom throughout the year. Past payload experiments have investigated temperature, pressure, ozone, and visible light in near-

Kansaku, C., & Kehr, L., & Lanier, C. (2007, June), Stem Related K 12 Outreach Through High Altitude Balloon Program Collaborations Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1997

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