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Students invited to join high-altitude project

February 9th, 2017

Feb. 9, 2017 — The Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC) is looking for four to six full-time students majoring in a science or engineering discipline to join the science payload team of its high-altitude balloon project, Elijah.

MSOE sophomore Cheyenne Phakousohn, a mechanical engineering major, participated in the 2016 program and was recently highlighted in NASA WSCG’s Student Spotlight. It was in an Introduction to Engineering class taught by Dr. William Farrow that Phakousohn first heard about the program.

“I applied and lo and behold I made it,” she said. The project’s duration was from June to August 2016. Phakousohn primarily worked on the mounting and usage of 360-degree cameras on the payload.

The Student Satellite Initiative is an innovative NASA project that provides students an opportunity to fly science experiments in a near-space environment. Selected students form a collaborative team of science and engineering specialists, whose task is to design and build a payload to be launched from a high-altitude balloon that will ascend up to 100,000 feet or more.

“Launching your creation into the skies is exhilarating and amazing,” Phakousohn said.

WSGC forms the team and provides the launch personnel and vehicle, as well as a mentor. Students are expected to define an important science question or set of questions that might be addressed by a high-altitude balloon flight; and then with the assistance of mentors, design and build a science-driven payload. Students design and build the science experiments to fly; assist the Elijah Balloon Launch Team in the launch of their payload; track and chase the balloon as it traverses; retrieve the payload upon landing; and analyze the resulting data.

Phakousohn and her team presented their findings at the 2016 Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium Conference in Superior, Wisconsin.

Interested students do not need to have experience, a pre-formed team or an initial idea for a payload project – just a desire to work with other students to conceive of and carry out a payload project. Phakousohn highly recommends the program. “Seeing the weather balloon ascend into the sky was a moment that I will cherish forever.”

Phakousohn continues to pursue her passion for aerospace and aeronautics through her involvement in the MSOE NASA Robotic Mining Competition. The RMC team, on which Phakousohn is secretary, is tasked with creating a robot able to dig simulated soil of the Martian surface. In May, the MSOE team will head to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where they will put their work to the test.

Applications for the 2017-18 Elihah Balloon Payload Program are being accept now through Feb. 20. See what Phakousohn’s experience was like in 360 footage captured by the payload and this video made by one of her teammates.

MSOE is an independent, non-profit university with about 2,900 students that was founded in 1903. MSOE offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, business and nursing. The university has a national academic reputation; longstanding ties to business and industry; dedicated professors with real-world experience; a 97% placement rate; and the highest ROI and average starting salaries of any Wisconsin university according to PayScale Inc. MSOE graduates are well-rounded, technologically experienced and highly productive professionals and leaders.

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