Rocket Shoots Student Science into the Sky
A rocket launched from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia this morning was carrying a scientific payload designed and built by a team of community college students from Hawaii. “Project Imua” was the culmination of an ambitious and unique collaboration among four campuses across the state.
â€œYou just see the thing ignite and shoot off into the sky,” said Kapiolani Community College student and “Project Imua” team member Kalaimoana Garcia said in a statement. “Itâ€™s the most amazing feeling in the world, especially since weâ€™ve been working on it for over a year… we are finally seeing all of our hard work pay off.â€
The RockSat-X rocket was a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute rocket, which takes off with enough thrust to subject its cargo to ten Gs (compared to the three Gs experienced by astronauts aboard the space shuttle). The sounding rocket quicklyÂ achievedÂ suborbital flight at an altitude of over 90 miles, then deployedÂ the “Project Imua” instrument along with a number of other payloads contributed by other institutions of higher education.
But “Project Imua” represented the only payload among sevenÂ that was submitted by a multi-campus team, and the only one from community college students.
The projectÂ sought to study the sun’s ultraviolet radiation in the upper atmosphere, orÂ the upper threshold of the thermosphere. The fixed payload size was less than a cubic foot, and the students assembled a UV spectrometer (including poer management and data collection modules).
Students from eachÂ community college campus capitalized on their respective schools’ strengths and focused on different components. TheÂ Honolulu Community CollegeÂ team designedÂ the electronic circuitry for power and telemetry,Â Kauai Community CollegeÂ students designed and builtÂ the payloadâ€™s instrumentation, theÂ Kapiolani Community CollegeÂ team worked on theÂ printed circuit board, andÂ Windward Community CollegeÂ students putÂ all the components together and performedÂ static tests on the payload.
What goes up must come down, and the rocket and theÂ cluster of scientific experiments it was carrying eventuallyÂ fell into the ocean, the descent slowed by a parachute. After the rush of the launch fades, the “Project Imua” team and theirÂ fellow student scientists will get to work retrieving and analyzing the data collected during the flight.
“Project Imua” was the focus of tonight’s broadcast of Bytemarks Cafe on Hawaii Public Radio. We spoke with Windward Community College student Elena Barbour (who led the Housing Design, Integration & Static Testing team), Honolulu Community College student Debora Pei (who led the Power, Telemetry & Engineering Experiments team), andÂ Joe Ciotti, a professor and director of the Center for Aerospace Education and HÅkÅ«lani Imaginarium at Windward Community College.
It was a fun conversation, as we discussed how the geographically diverse team collaborated across thousands of miles, what the students learned and took away from the experience, and what they planned to do next. Listen here, or on the HPR website:
“Project Imua” is funded by a two-year, $500,000 NASA grant focused on expanding scienceÂ opportunities atÂ community colleges and technical schools.
Photos courtesy the University of Hawaii System on Flickr.