Engaging girls in engineering

When it comes to engaging youth in engineering, one club in Utah is taking the challenge to new heights. The all girls maker club is building weather balloons to soar 30,000 feet above earth.


When it comes to engaging youth in engineering, one club in Utah is taking the challenge to new heights.

The all-girls Makers Club is building weather balloons to soar 30,000 feet above the Earth.

Here's the story.

I see more of the, 'Oh, how do you do this?'

I experience more of the things that I haven't experienced before.

My favorite part is when you get to see the finished product.

Kevin had 12 girls, about age 12, learn how to program Arduino and outfit a little satellite box, like a CubeSat, sent it up in a big helium balloon and collected atmospheric data, got video of the Earth.

So, those 12 girls that did that launch last October are now mentoring a new set of girls through this, preparing to launch in June.

Over the last nine months, I've been working with an all-girls group.

And that's been a lot of fun.

We launched a high-altitude balloon up to 115,000 feet, and the girls built a payload, put some sensors on it, and had a blast learning about programming.

We're working on launching a weather balloon up into the sky.

And we're going to attach little payloads, which are boxes that contain sensors, to gather information about, like, how the pressure and the temperature and stuff like that change.

So, this is our payload box.

And right here, we have the camera so that we could see when the balloon popped and we could see the curve of Earth and pretty much the whole launch out of this.

And then some of our sensors that we used, like this one right here -- that measured the pressure.

And so we could see the different pressures all the way up there and down here on Earth.

We also used one where it could tell the temperature, which is probably either this sensor or this sensor, since they look kind of alike.

The first thing that we did was build some antennas out of tape-measure elements and PVC pipe so we could find the balloon when we could no longer see it.

So, like, when it's up in the air, we can point our antennas and we can hear the signal of where it is.

And then when it comes back down and the payload parachutes back to Earth, when it's on the ground, we can get in the general vicinity, but we may not be able to see it, 'cause there's bushes and trees or hills.

We can use the antennas and we can home in on it.


Oh, those balloons are to detect, like, the air going, so how fast the air is.

We want, like, very little air, like it is right now.

It's perfect.

The air is cooperating.

So, this is the antenna.

We hook it up to this box, which comes off, and we don't get to keep it.

But it's basically the thing that turns this on, by flicking that, and it sets the frequency on this so we'll pick it up.

And then we hook it up to the walkie-talkie, which is the one which tells us, like, all the noise, the annoying noise that we get from the fox beacon.

So, these are the payload boxes, and they have all of our sensors and cameras in here, like the GPS.

[ Indistinct conversations, laughter ]



We had a really successful launch.

The balloon went up in right the direction we had planned for it to go.

And it landed near Thatcher, Idaho, about 3 miles short of where we predicted, but that's not bad.

We got to the landing site and used our direction-finding antennas to kind of narrow in on it.

We found it.

When we got to the payloads, we opened them up and we realized that there was a problem.

A few things went wrong.

So, our camera -- somehow, it got knocked out of place.

And, also, our sensors didn't work, 'cause they got knocked out of place.

And, so, we only have pressure as our data.

The improvements that we're gonna make for the next launch is -- our parachute was all tangled up in the two packages.

But we hit 95-mile-an-hour winds up there in the jet stream, so those boxes got tossed around.

Is there something we can do about it?

We don't know.

But we're gonna look into that.

And then the other thing is securing the memory card, the SD card in the package, building something to protect that so it doesn't come out and also looking at our payloads again.

We're gonna go back and fly again.

That's what we do.

When stuff doesn't work, you regroup, you plan, you figure out what went wrong the best you can, you try to fix it, and you try again.