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Suitsat in the classroom



I taught three classes on SuitSat in the science program of the local
Middle School here in New Brunswick, Canada. I thought I'd provide a brief
report, partly to seed ideas for future educational opportunities, partly
as a note of thanks to the team that put SuitSat together and collected its
data.

This proved a very engaging topic, one to which the gr. 6 and 7 students
warmed quite quickly. The idea of 'reusing' out-of-date equipment in this
manner, the 'secret words' and multilingual nature of the message, and
finally the very haunting image of 'Mr. Smith' tumbling through space all
served to capture young imaginations. 

My presentation comprised a modified version of Gould's ppt presentation
and an audio disk with A.J.'s Greatest Hits :-) I began talking about ISS
and communications from there to earth via ham radio. I played a part of
the recording of Maryam 9K2MD talking to U5MIR. Her enthusiasm is quite
evident, and it draws the girls into the topic a bit. It also is a good
introduction to the idea of callsigns and phonetic alphabets.

After introducing the idea of SS, we watched the video of the launch. 
We calculated how much weaker the signal turned out to be than expected,
and we listened to the audio. I gave them each a worksheet which helped
guide them. Recordings with telemetry had headings for 'Temperature', for
instance. Then they gathered in lab groups and tried to fill in material. I
allowed representatives from the groups to gather around the CD player to
eek out another word or two.

We ended the hour with a discussion about what went wrong. Does your car
stereo stop working at 13 deg. C? If the batteries on a suit are rated at
28v, how does the voltage seem? Finally, by listening to the fading and
comparing the video of the suit tumbling, many got the sense that the
fading was due to the suit masking the antenna. All three classes wish to
recommend to the designers of future suitsats that they install a second
antenna, some thought at right angles to the first, others thought out the
feet of the suit! 

The important thing for us to recognize is that this was an opportunity
that was grasped very well. We should be proud not only of the people who
put the thing together with very little time, but of those who made a
success of it through their technical skills and their considerable
cooperation. 

73, Bruce
VE9QRP
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