Launching satellites to learn, despite a pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic did not allow Missouri S&T to host its popular summer camps for elementary and high school students in person during the summer of 2020. As a result, S&T held its first-ever virtual summer camp focused on space. The camp culminated in a satellite launch event to witness more than a dozen camper-built small satellites travel 100,000 feet into the air on a high-altitude balloon. Campers tracked the flight in August and later received images and data captured by the satellites from the edge of space.

Julie Comeau, a participant in S&T’s “Space: The Final Frontier” virtual camp, decided to film herself working to build and launch her satellite, and she edited the process into a video that recaps her project.

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“Since my parents were both working all day, they asked me to take a couple of pictures for them of the different stages of building the satellite,” says Comeau. “I decided to film the different stages and edit it into a short video. It is a great reflection of how much I loved being a part of space camp and building the satellite.”

The camp was held July 12-16 and challenged students with hands-on work to design, build and fly a small satellite. The campers, all rising 10th, 11th and 12th graders, used provided materials to construct small spacecraft. The craft were then sent back to the S&T campus and launched on a high-altitude balloon in mid-August. Throughout the camp week, video lessons included satellite building and testing instructions, virtual laboratory tours and interviews with aerospace engineering faculty and current S&T students.

“My high school had offered an aerospace engineering class and I really enjoyed it; it made me consider aerospace engineering as a major for college, and I wanted to explore more about it,” says Comeau. “When I saw Missouri S&T offered a space-related camp, it was a good way to learn more about the subject and at the same time have fun building a satellite.”

Missouri S&T moved three of its pre-college summer camps to a virtual format for 2020, due to ongoing COVID-19 safety concerns. The three summer camps included a combination of online interaction with hands-on activities the campers did from their homes.

“Building the satellite and watching the footage taken from space were my favorite parts of the camp,” says Comeau. “I missed the teamwork of not being able to work together in person during camp, but we were able to interact through online sessions and link into a live session for the balloon launch.”

For more information about the summer camps, or to join the summer camp email list, visit summer.mst.edu.

About Missouri University of Science and Technology

Founded in 1870 as the University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of more than 8,000 students and part of the four-campus University of Missouri System. Located in Rolla, Missouri S&T offers 99 different degree programs in 40 areas of study, including engineering, the sciences, education, business and information technology, the humanities, and the liberal arts. Missouri S&T is known globally and is highly ranked for providing a high return on tuition investment, exceptional career opportunities for graduates, and an emphasis on applied, hands-on learning through student design teams and cooperative education and internship opportunities. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit mst.edu.

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