• Within Our Grasp: IGNITE Satellite Program Progress Blasts Through the School Year and into the Summer

    June 12, 2018

    This past school year saw significant bounds made in satellite progress. The group of students worked with a more determined and concentrated focus in their respective areas, along with assistance from previous members that had graduated last year and employees working for the Raytown School District Technology Department. This complicated project is close to completion and the members- even those who have graduated- are still dedicated to the goal, even if it means working through the summer. Here are some members’ reflections over the course of the project.


    Sam Miles, a 2018 graduate of Raytown High School, joined the program because, “This was a fantastic opportunity and I did not want this opportunity pass to pass me by,” Miles said. He says he has learned more about circuit board design, schematic and layout software, and how to find necessary components and assemble them on a circuit board. He plans to attend the University of  Missouri - Kansas City in the fall to be an electrical engineer. “The satellite program has taught me a LOT about how electrical engineers work, I feel like I have some legitimate experience going into my program of study,” Miles explained.


    Camron Jones, a 2018 graduate of Raytown South High School, joined the program because, “I felt that it would help me understand what it takes to truly work as a team, and to further improve my skills in engineering for the future,” Jones said. He explained how he has learned more about effective communication and working hard towards one’s goals and plans to use what he has learned as a student at West Point Military Academy this fall.


    Jacob Dodd, who will be a senior at Raytown South High School next school year, said he joined because he was fascinated by the idea of constructing a satellite and also because, “I figured that if I could help put my city on the map and do something I love at the same time that the project would be a great opportunity for me,” Dodd said. Since joining he has learned new skills including computer coding, leadership, soldering, and networking. He plans to go to college to study mechanical engineering or computer science. Dodd expressed, “I’ve had nothing but fun while working on this project and, in return, this project has done nothing but help me make myself better.”


    Anna Ryan, an incoming senior at Raytown High School, joined because, “I was looking forward to the opportunity to explore an area I’m not familiar with and to gain more experience in journalism,” Ryan said. She has learned more about how to provide the public with consistent and accurate information and how to investigate topics and interview individuals. After graduating, she plans on studying journalism and communications at the University of Missouri or the University of Missouri - Kansas City. “Through this program, I’ve learned how to research and write about topics I did not know much about, as well as how to persevere to reach goals and work with others to achieve them,” Ryan added.


    Abby Meyer, an incoming junior at Raytown High School, joined because, “I’ve always wondered how the parts that make up electronics work, and this is a great way to understand it in a hands-on way.” Over the course of the years she has learned more about Python programming language and how to use it, in spite of how complicated it can sometimes be. After high school, she wants to become a violinist, teach and compose music, and even build instruments. “Music is powered by and through electronics and I think it could become very useful in the future to have an understanding of what we use to move music forward,” Meyer said.


    Jason Meyer, also an incoming junior at Raytown High School, joined the program in order to gain experience in working as an engineer and gain new skills. Since joining he has learned how to better collaborate with a group of people as well as how to ask questions about components he had no previous experience with and how to solder components onto hardware. He plans on getting a degree in architecture. “This project was a great introduction and experience for me to practice important engineering skills and group skills,” Meyer said.


    Overall this group of dedicated students and individuals has pushed through the school year and is relishing the opportunity to complete the project. The Raytown School District Technology Department is currently working to get the satellite listed on a manifest to be launched and students will present their progress at an upcoming educational conference. Though the project took longer to complete than expected, the additional time has only given the participants more time to develop engineering, programming, and interpersonal skills and has enriched their passion for their future goals. It has taken a lot of time, but it has been time well invested.


    Under Construction: Progress Continues as Intensive Assembly Commences
    April 19, 2018

    Well into the new semester and the team is well into making new progress on the circuit boards and overall satellite construction. Now that more of the essential components of the satellite have come in or will be in soon, a greater focus can be directed towards the physical assembly of the craft and communication with the satellite. The group remains on the smaller side, but has continued to flourish with assistance from experienced staff members of the district’s technology department creating a true collaborative effort. What the team lacks in members it makes up for in dedication and perseverance towards the end goal.


    Programming, composed primarily of new members, has been learning and reviewing basic, crucial functions such as how to set up and operate Raspberry Pi, as well as the basics of camera installation for the satellite. Freshman Dakota Luebbert of Raytown High School explained, “The satellite can’t fly without the programming.” Consequently, Mike Mulder, a staff member of the technology department, has been aiding the process. “As for progress the master code is coming along really great,” junior Jacob Dodd from Raytown South High School expressed, adding that they have everything completed except for the capability of sending the data, which they hope to have mastered soon. “After that we can focus entirely on optimizing our code and adding more safety code so that if one module fails, the whole satellite won’t fail,” Dodd said. He went on to say how he and his fellow team members were also studying to get their radio certification and would be working on the master algorithm after everything else is complete.


    Engineering, on the other hand, has completed the construction of the circuit boards and have moved into the hardware testing process, which involves making sure voltages and other essential functions are operable in the satellite. “We’re making sure that everything works as intended,” senior Sam Miles, a returning member of the program, clarified. After hardware testing is done the team can work on building the solar panels, which will provide the satellite with energy, as well as firmware installation, which will ensure that Raspberry Pi can communicate with the radio. The engineering team is truly problem solving on the go and learning more and more about the construction of the intricate satellite. Another challenge that they are overcoming is, “The fact that we have to learn as we go,” as Miles explained.


    The primary focus of the communications team is on establishing and maintaining successful communication with the satellite via ham radio once it has been launched into space. For now, members of the communications team have dispersed to aid in other groups to boost progress.


    As the school year has rounded its final bend near the finish line, progress is picking up speed and momentum. Students are improving and succeeding in their communication with each other, education on the different elements of satellite construction and operation, and, most importantly, construction and launch of the satellite itself.


    Still Shooting for the Stars: New Year Brings Renewed Motivation to Complete Satellite
    December 15, 2017


    The Mission to Space: IGNITE Satellite students are hard at work this 2017-2018 school year with some returning faces and new members to help recoup the loss of the seniors who graduated at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Last year, the group was able to establish what supplies would be necessary to construct the satellite, what programming would need to take place in order to control the satellite, and what skills would be essential in communicating with the satellite. The original goal was to have the satellite successfully launched by the end of last school year, but the group learned the real-world lesson that sometimes deadlines have to be adjusted in order to have enough time to make a project successful.


    The dedication is still there and the group is more invigorated than ever to complete the mission. This year, the goal is to build the satellite, launch the satellite, and establish communication with the satellite by the end of the school year. Professional mentors from the Raytown School District Technology Department are guiding the group as they continue their quest for the stars. The end goal of a successful satellite launch is a challenge that has the full effort on the part of the members, full guidance on the part of the leaders, and the continued support on the part of the community.


    This year, the mission is led by Anna Hoffman, a freshman at Raytown South High School. Hoffman was a member of the team last year as an eighth-grader and is licensed to communicate with the satellite through ham radio. She is focused on instituting more organized methods of communication, task management, and collaboration needed for the successful completion of the project.


    The research and communications team now has a main focus of getting more members to understand how to communicate via ham radio, which is an essential skill to achieve the ultimate goal of launching and communicating with the satellite. The group will also be responsible for the monitoring and collection of data and photos.


    The programming team has some fresh faces; Raytown High School freshmen Dakota Luebbert and Kaden Reynolds are already contributing to the group’s overall progress with the help and guidance of returning member Jacob Dodd, a junior at Raytown South High School. The programming team continues to increase their knowledge of Python, which is the programming language that will be used to control the satellite and facilitate its success.


    The engineering team is now ready to take on the major task of constructing the satellite. Returning team members Camron Jones, a senior at Raytown South High School, and Samuel Miles, a senior at Raytown High School, have been finalizing the construction of the circuit board, which will serve as the “brain” of the satellite and will be placed in the prototype satellite they will build.  They will be testing the operation of the circuit board and will fix any problems they encounter.


    In addition to the circuit board, the engineering team is also putting the finishing touches on the power management board that will be able to transfer and maintain energy throughout the satellite. After the completion of the power management board, Engineering will connect the Raspberry Pi, a computer that will be used to control the satellite after the launch.


    The Mission to Space: IGNITE Satellite students continue to learn real-world skills in communication, collaboration, organization, and teamwork in addition to the technical skills they are developing in engineering, programming, research, and marketing. Students remain motivated to accomplish their goal of a successful satellite launch in this student-led, hands-on, and exploratory learning opportunity that is truly out of this world.


    The Endeavor Forges Ahead, Satellite Project Continues
    June 5, 2017

    As the 2016-2017 school year ends, progress being made on the satellite pushes on into summer and next school year. These past few months have seen significant strides in a variety of areas and were essential to construct a foundation of knowledge that the groups can now build upon. Although the goal of successfully launching and communicating with a satellite was not achieved according to the original schedule, the objective remains the fixture of the team’s focus so despite the delay, launching a successful satellite continues to motivate members into next year. 


    The engineering group, over the course of the school year, were able to settle on a programming language and a circuit board to use for the satellite. They also succeeded in designing the satellite and determining what parts would be needed, and then planned how to correctly attach these parts inside and outside of the craft to maximize the satellite’s performance. They have sent the circuit boards off to be 3-D printed and are currently working on constructing a battery cage. Throughout this discovery and design process, they all gained valuable experience in the field in addition to learning how to effectively communicate and work as a group.


    The programming team was responsible for weighing the benefits of different computer processors, like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, and different programming languages, such as Python. After much practice and planning, they also succeeded in getting the camera on the satellite to work and continue to work to communicate with the transceiver and amplifier on the satellite to condense code to convey information from the satellite to back home. They are also making headway in perfecting the timing mechanisms on the camera and the chips to communicate data. Although they faced their share of challenges, they are and continue to be an essential part of the program. 


    The research team has also made noteworthy progress. They started out analyzing different components that could potentially influence the satellite’s launch and communication of data, such as temperature and magnetic fields. They also explored possible outlets to print the circuit boards and were in charge of finding inexpensive but quality parts to use for the satellite. One member, a licensed ham radio operator, has also been essential in planning how communication will be established with the satellite after it is launched. Furthermore, a materials manifest has been compiled and they continue to research and analyze the different needs of the team.


    The marketing team, although they do not contribute to the actual creation of the satellite, have been a crucial component in chronicling and publicizing the progress being made in the program. Countless interviews, investigations, and updates have paid off after the publishing of numerous blog posts that keep the public informed of the success of the group. They will remain a consistent point of communication to catalog the achievements of the team. 


    Despite the multiplicity of setbacks, the Raytown Ignite Satellite Program has experienced much more successes over the course of the school year. Until the satellite is complete the launch date has been delayed, but, as Keegan Scanlon, head of the Research and Communications team, explains, “Just because we’re on a delay doesn’t mean we can slow down.” These words exemplify the motivation and goals of the program as this group effort pushes on without any thought of stopping.


    Triumph Through Trials: Space Program Makes Progress In Spite of Obstacles
    June 5, 2017 
    The Raytown Mission to Space program is hitting crunch time in the engineering and designing process. There is a sense of urgency as all groups work toward the end goal. Now the team is in the process of taking measurements, ordering pieces and equipment. Data and research are being checked and then double-checked, and systems are being expertly programmed.


    The marketing team has been busy taking photos of every member of the program and collecting data on each member’s motives, progress, and aspirations. That information is then compiled into profiles that are unique for every person, providing peers and the community with the opportunity to get to know the faces and lives behind the innovative program. Marketing is also occupied interviewing members and observing the work being done to assemble that information into blog posts like this one, effectively and clearly communicating the progress, breakthroughs, hardships, and successes of the mission to the public. 


    The engineering team has also been making significant headway in their efforts to successfully design and create a functioning prototype of the satellite and then craft the final product, goals that must be met soon. Jack Scanlon, head of the engineering team, explains that they have determined how they are going to build the satellite and attach all of the components, and they are currently working on the battery cage that will hold the battery in place during orbit, which is a crucial element of the satellite. They have faced struggles, such as a decline in member attendance due to participation in athletics and other extracurricular activities. The team is still aiming to manufacture the attachments that will hold together the solar panels and sheet metal, and they have already made major breakthroughs in getting the circuit boards to successfully function. Engineering has been working on finalizing the satellite’s design and has made headway in making the attachments that will hold the craft together.


    The programming group’s progress is dependent on the other teams work so there are occasional lulls in the usually busied work process, but their progress has been undeniably crucial and significant within the months since the beginning of the second semester. The head of programming, Spencer Bryant, clarifies that they are currently working on perfecting the timing systems, which allow photos to be taken by the satellite and files of photos to be created at certain times, typically at 12-hour intervals. They are also working on the chips that will allow them to communicate with the satellite and the satellite to communicate data with them. Their goals in the next few weeks, are to fix the camera in addition to fine-tuning the solar panels by regulating their readings and battery power consumption. They need to also create a scheduled reset to occur regularly on the satellite that will allow them to turn it on and off to make sure everything is functioning properly and to prevent overheating. Overall, they have made noteworthy progress that gives the rest of the program a strong foundation to build off of. 


    The research and communications team is making strides in their pursuit of helpful and pertinent information and components to be applied to the satellite’s design and function. According to Keegan Scanlon, head of the research team, they have finished the necessary research and have also compiled a ‘material manifest’, which is a list of the parts needed for the satellite. They have submitted all of the paperwork and have acquired their ham radio license, which is crucial in order to communicate with the satellite. Their goals for the next few weeks is for all members of the team to be comfortable with ham radio and to be able to answer any questions that might arise from the other teams. 


    Students are learning life lessons similar to that they would encounter in the real world. While the initial timeline of the project had students set to launch the satellite in May 2017, students are still perfecting programming and design. Students will continue to work on the satellite throughout the summer and into next school year if needed. In the real world, projects hit snags and learning how to be flexible will help all team members be successful in future careers. It’s all about how you bounce back and continue to move forward to an uncharted horizon.


    Beak-on of Hope: Innovative New Name Lights the Way to Students’ Path of Discovery
    February 21, 2017
    Just as Raytown students fly to new heights in academics, the satellite now has a new name for which it will spread its wings to soar, now under the recently chosen name of RSD- Avian. Avian, from the Latin root avismeaning ‘bird’, was proposed by the students and selected as a symbol of unity between both high schools since they both have a bird as their mascot. This name was just one of countless others collected from middle schools and high schools throughout the district. The prefix, RSD, stands for ‘Raytown School District’ was introduced by one of the middle school science classes, and the word Avian was suggested by high school students working on the Raytown Mission to Space program. It is under this new name that hard-working students are empowered to live up to the standards of feathered creatures to have no limits to what they can achieve nor boundaries to where they can go. 


    Dreaming the designs and putting them into action is the engineering team, whose focus is now to finalize circuit board schematics in order to send them to a company to 3D print them, according to Jack Scanlon, chair of Engineering. A circuit board, for all the non-tech-savvy people out there, is like a highway for all the signals in the satellite that is pivotal to the successful function. So far, this group has also been able to work on a parts list for all of the necessary elements of the satellite, in addition to trying to figure out the proper way to attach the circuit board and the solar panel to the outside layer of the satellite. This group has learned how to function as engineers as well as how to work as a group, which includes the ability to work together with different ideas and different skill sets. The engineering team continues to work on organization and finding new ways for the team to stay on track even with members’ busy schedules. The team is still making significant headway to craft the vessel that will be launched into space. 


    The programming team is now working with a more “streamlined focus,” in the words of Spencer Bryant, leader of the group. Their goal is now to successfully communicate with the transceiver and amplifier. Furthermore, they are attempting to condense the code down into serial to go into encryptors. ‘Serial’ is a protocol, or method of communication between two devices by using one wire in each direction. Statistics and information are converted into 1s and 0s to go across the wire. Communication is critical for interaction throughout the satellite and the successful transfer of information between the satellite and Earth. 


    Focused and hard-working, the Research and Communications team is currently looking for circuit board manufacturers to print their board. This vital decision depends on the availability and pricing of parts. They are also preparing for their meeting with Randy Schultz, head of the Amateur Radio Club of Raytown, who is an expert in communicating with satellites. They are also finalizing the sensors, which monitor elements like speed, temperature, magnetic force, gravitational force, and humidity. Despite these significant steps that have been made, the group has hit a few roadblocks.The students have been learning about the best ways to contact Interorbital and what camera might be best to install on the satellite for the launch. The students are working to establish an open line of communication with Interorbital moving forward in the project.  Nonetheless, the group is still making meaningful progress towards the final product. 

    Overall the building of the Avian is in progress and it is up to these students to ensure that its wings are fully equipped and prepared before its momentous flight. Halfway through this program, it is clear that the feathers that make up every student's’ school spirit are also present in the group effort of launching the RSD Avian.


    At the Drawing Board
    December 2, 2016 
    The clock is racing as we undergo the first steps of our trailblazing space experience. Our collective group of aspiring scientists, engineers, and journalists have now divided into four different groups to hone in on their main focus and to take their first steps towards creating a successful satellite. The four groups specialize in programming, engineering, research, and marketing. 


    The engineering group has started exploring the connection between a special computer processor called Raspberry Pi and the circuit boards we will use in the construction of the satellite. They will be in control of constant communication with the satellite. The engineering group is also responsible for discovering adequate sensors for the circuit board to help preserve the satellite’s function. Jordan Ellsworth, head of engineering, informs us that, “Temperature changes in space.” There will be a thermometer inside the satellite. The satellite will need insulation because the circuit board will not work and we will lose communication if the temperatures are too low or high. “Being in direct sunlight is different than none at all,” Ellsworth said. Sensors on the circuit board are a crucial element and require careful deliberation. They must meet certain requirements in their cost and in the functions they can perform. Sensors can also prove to be the linchpin in the success of the satellite’s whole mission since they can detect threats and also gather data for analysis.


    The programming group has weighed the benefits of two options for computer processors that will power the satellite and contribute to the interpretation and reception of information between students and the satellite. The Raspberry Pi computer processor was chosen over Arduino, as its design emphasizes the key elements of accessibility, size, and user friendliness. The programming group is planning to use Python as a programming language to easily convert images to files and receive pictures. Python was selected because it works well with the Raspberry Pi computer processor. Additionally, they recently made a huge development by successfully capturing and storing pictures and videos using the camera that will be put in the satellite. It is crucial to make sure that the pictures will turn out well since they are part of the research that will be shared with the district and community. “This is essentially the brain of the entire operation,” expressed Spencer Bryant, leader of the Programming group. “Because if we have a camera in space that can’t take photos, that’s on us.” 


    The research team is gathering data that will aid in the construction and engineering of the satellite; this includes analyzing variables like temperature, the magnetic field, and other factors that will affect the satellite’s successful launch and function.  Overall, Keegan Scanlon, head of Research and Communications is worried about, “Making sure that the parts work perfectly together.” Using NASA as the main source for their information, the research group hopes to share their preliminary research in the next couple of weeks so that they can offer guidance to the programming and engineering teams as a design begins to develop. 


    For each team, these weeks are crucial to the successful development of the satellite as they must establish an accurate foundation to build the satellite and continue to work towards crucial breakthroughs. Students continue to produce innovative and paramount discoveries as they finalize their discoveries at the drawing board.


    Breaking Through the Atmosphere
    November 1, 2016
    “So remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes a universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” This quote by Stephen Hawking is what is at the core of the Raytown School District’s Raytown Mission to Space: IGNITE Satellite Program, created to empower students to not just gaze at the stars and wonder, but to travel to the stars and discover. The IGNITE Satellite Program is not a program for students: it’s a program for all aspiring scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and pioneers in the community, regardless of age or past experience. After all, it doesn’t matter where we’re standing or where we start out, it only matters how far we can go up into the stars and how far we can go into other’s lives to inspire and educate those around us. 


    Interorbital Systems has partnered with the program to make this possible. We have a goal of successfully launching and communicating with a satellite built by students under the direction of mentors in the community. Students will get the opportunity to see how classroom experience can apply to real-life procedures and endeavors through hands-on hard work. At this point in the school year, members have learned the basic science behind satellites, how an amateur radio transmission functions, and the proper formulas for communicating with the satellite once it has launched into space.


    If everything works according to schedule, students should soon be working with digital electronics, such as programming and circuit boards, and a prototype should be built and tested before the end of first semester. With the beginning of second semester, students will be analyzing the results of prototype tests and constructing the final satellite. Tests will be conducted on the final satellites and the necessary corrections will be made,. Then, it will be shipped to the Californian coast to be launched on one of Interorbital’s rockets before the end of the school year. 


    This program will provide students in all grades with the opportunity to see how, with the power of determination and education, any goal is achievable. If successful, communication with the satellite will be established. Then, it will give the school district more information to incorporate into the curriculum that allows students to see real-world application of the knowledge they have gleaned. The marketing team will be a steady source of information to keep the public continuously updated on our progress and achievements. Furthermore, the IGNITE Satellite Program will give the community an opportunity to bond by inviting guests like amateur radio operators, programmers, and engineers to help educate students on the possibilities of studying and researching in the fields of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). 


    The IGNITE Satellite Program will benefit students and the community in ways that may begin with the satellite but with effects that linger long after the satellite comes back to Earth. Like Hawking said, our discovery and wonder of the stars will teach students that the circumstances they start with don’t matter, because with the opportunities provided through education and discovery, they can go anywhere- even to the stars. So while the satellite may travel far into space, its impact will extend deeper into the minds of our students and further still into the heart of our community.