AMSAT® Education and You!

E. Michael McCardel, KC8YLD, V.P. for Educational Relations

2013 AMSAT®® Space Symposium, Houston Texas, November 1-3, 2013


I would like to thank Mark Hammond, N8MH, for his service as V.P.  for Educational Relations here at AMSAT®. His leadership and vision have brought us a good distance over the past two years. He has laid a foundation upon which we can build as we go forward. I am very happy that he will continue working with AMSAT® as a member of Board of Directors

I also want to thank the AMSAT® Education Team, Associate Directors, Joe Spier K6WAO and Dale Hunzeker KJ6VUC who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to build relationships and guide projects. Lastly, I need to recognize Mark Spencer, WA8SME, our partner from ARRL’s Education and Technology Program. Much of the educational tools he has developed are directly applicable to the AMSAT® goals as they relate to K-16 educational resources. He has a clear vision of how to apply STEM standards in our schools.

Why is education important to AMSAT®?

Well, it is a part of our mission and our vision.

Our Mission Statement includes,

AMSAT® is a non-profit volunteer organization which designs, builds and operates experimental satellites and promotes space education. We work in partnership with government, industry, educational institutions and fellow amateur radio societies. We encourage technical and scientific innovation, and promote the training and development of skilled satellite and ground system designers and operators.”

Our vision states

“Our Vision is to deploy satellite systems with the goal of providing wide area and continuous coverage. AMSAT® will continue active participation in human space missions and support a stream of LEO satellites developed in cooperation with the educational community and other amateur satellite groups.”

In fact when The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (as AMSAT® is officially known) was first formed in the District of Columbia in 1969 it was founded as an educational organization.

More recently we have become quite aware that Education has quickly become critical for our ride to space. Much of what we do has many Educational tie-ins from K-16. In K-12 STEM education has become the standard and meeting these standards is a critical aspect that teachers are struggling to accomplish. AMSAT® has the experience and expertise to assist teachers with obtaining their goals of incorporating STEM standards into their pedagogy. This is especially true when we combine resources and knowledge with our partners at NASA and the ARRL. More Universities are developing CubeSat missions. We can help them with their missions by supplying them with a vehicle that has sound avionics that allow them to easily plug in their experiments. AMSAT® already has Academic Partnerships with Penn State (mems gyro, on Fox-1), R.I.T. (MPPT on Fox-1a & b), Virginia Tech (special payload on Fox-1a), and Vanderbilt (Radiation science on Fox-1a & b).

We missed a great opportunity with ARISSat-1 by not being prepared in time to push an educational agenda that we could supply schools in assistance to their STEM activities. With Fox-1, Fox-2, and perhaps ARISSat-2 and 3, we have an opportunity to develop educational tools and experiences that we ran out of time with ARISSat-1.

An educational initiative can serve us well in membership recruitment and fund raising. As we become engaged and excited with our educational partners we not only educate them and the public but we educate ourselves and we become better promoters for our product. As others outside AMSAT® see the positive impact we are having on education they will be more willing to assist and contribute to our efforts.


In our educational outreach of the past couple of years we have had several successes. At Pacificon in October of last year we put on displays of how amateur radio satellites related STEM requirements.  The ARISS contact at the stage of ARRL’s National Convention, which was ably coordinated by Joe Spier, W6WAO, not only brought us attention and some good PR but also brought an experience into the hands of the youth at the convention that served as an incentive to follow a course of study in STEM related courses and perhaps towards STEM careers. Coupled with the contact Dale Hunzeker KJ6VUC used the CubeSat Simulator developed by Mark Spencer, WA8SME, to demonstrate working with live data and I assisted volunteers in the Youth Lobby with the building of paper Fox models demonstrating meeting the STEM skills of measuring and direction following to younger students. At the same time Tom Deeble, KA6SIP was demonstrating making live portable satellite QSO’s using the ARRL Callsign W1AW/W6

In March of 2013 Dale, in cooperation of the Pasadena Radio Club, engaged the youth of Monrovia California at their Science Expo.  Included in this AMSAT® presence was a live ISS video downlink, CubeSat simulator demonstrations and Amateur Satellite Communication Demonstrations.

Monrovia Science Expo Monrovia CubeSat1Monrovia ISS Video1

Monrovia Science Expo

In June Richard Siff W4BUE of the Amateur Memorial Radio Club in Chesapeake, VA  contacted Mark Hammond and the educational team with a request for ideas and help with a presentation to 225 Chesapeake Public Schools science teachers. Dale coordinated with their request and had me send them one of our CubeSat simulators. This specifically met their request for hands on learning material. The Chesapeake group made good use their tools, as recently reported in ANS-272, the Chesapeake group used the simulators and other resources to present to a plethora of venues.

* STEM Technology teachers Chesapeake Schools 200 +  (K5VIP)
* Western Tidewater Amateur Radio Club  30  (W4VX)
* Society of Broadcast Engineers Chapter 54 at the WHRO Studios 30
* Virginia Beach Amateur Radio Club 30  (KN4KL)
* Virginia Beach Hamfest Forum and table 75  (W4VX / W4BUE)
* Chesapeake Center for Science and Technology High School VO TECH,
WFOS / W4FOS. 8 students

They are currently in “standby” for STEM teachers to discuss lesson plan(s).

Presentations included the following information:  (1 hour)
*  CubeSat
*  Video of edited clips from Dayton Youth Forum and our VO Tech
about 20 mins.  Clips: – SAT COM – Robots – DX – High Altitude
Balloon MIT Letter Hack – School Club Roundup
* STEM presentation


K4AMG Amateur Memorial Radio Club

So what’s next?

We have several challenges which I believe we can meet. We have almost a year to develop an educational outreach program to succeed in meeting many of our educational objectives, before Fox-1 launches. We need to develop tools, opportunities and activities that meet STEM requirements. We need to engage educators and offer our assistance in writing lesson plans and developing activities directly related to Fox-1 and it’s on board scientific experiments. We need to get word out to schools in reference to the educational opportunities available through the satellite.

We believe much of the work Mark Spencer has already put forth in his development of several simulators has given us a head start. Mark has developed

Tracking simulator
CubeSat simulator
MAREA- the Mars-lander ARISS Robotics Exploration Activity
Yaesu FT-817 Sat CAT controller
Wobbler Simulator
WRAPS, Wobbler, RadFx, Antenna Pointing System

AMSAT® already has deployed the tracking simulators and CubeSat simulators. I hope we can construct and have available MAREAs, and WRAPS, and perhaps other innovations for loaning as well.

                   MAREA, the Mars-lander ARISS Robotics Exploration Activity

                                         CubeSat and Tracker Simulators

I have just recently begun a conversation with ARRL Educational Services Mgr., Debra Johnson, K1DMJ, about tapping into ARRL’s recently ‘reinvented’ education newsletter, “Radio Waves” as an avenue to publicizing our Educational initiatives. We have also talked about a joint venture to form some kind of repository for lesson plans and activities.

We have an opportunity to learn from FUNcube and the UK educational initiative when it launches (hopefuly) later this month.

We have an opportunity with the ARRL Centennial Celebration in Hartford Connecticut next July. We have already begun planning to participate in ARRL sponsored learning sessions to be held on Thursday. AMSAT® will hold a forum on during the celebration and we are working toward establishing an ARISS contact during the convention.

Communicating Our Successes

We need to better communicate our activities. Many individuals and clubs conduct demos at hamfests and club meetings and schools that go entirely unreported or documented. We need to be better self-promoters. Let us know, in advance if possible, what activities you plan to support. We’ll help promote them. And please report your efforts. ANS is our weekly news publication. The editors are always looking for submissions. Send submissions and queries to ANS-Editor@AMSAT®.org. Write an article for the Journal about your experiences. See JoAnne’s call for articles and guidelines published in ANS 279 and on the AMSAT-BB. Send Pictures and charts. We can use this information in the Journal and on our website as well. We will all benefit from your effort.

There is another resource we need to promote and populate. That is the AMSAT®-EDU bulletin board. As the moderator for the AMSAT®-EDU  BB, I acknowledge we do not have many posts. What I would like to see it become is a place and a resource for educators and AMSAT® members to interface, collaborate, share ideas, offer support and generate materials to meet our and their educational objectives. To make this happen we have to reach out to educators and get them to join the list. To subscribe to a mailing list from AMSAT.ORG, start on the ListInfo web page, http://www.AMSAT.org/mailman/listinfo then, select (click on) the mailing list of interest, in this case AMSAT-Edu. This will bring up a simple form where you can enter your email address and subscribe by clicking the Subscribe button. If you wish to receive the messages bundled up into a daily digest, just select that option before clicking Subscribe.

Getting Started

How can we best get started accomplishing all of this? Let’s start close to home. We start by better communicating and motivation among ourselves, especially the different departments within AMSAT®. The more informed we are the better we can promote our efforts. The better we promote our efforts the more attention is drawn to our initiatives.

Get to know your area coordinator. (S)he is a great resource and can help your efforts when you are preparing a demo, program or display at hamfests, conventions, club presentations and school programs. Your Area Coordinator can help with contacts, suggestions and materials. Educational Relations is committed to work with the Area Coordinators and others by providing them resources as we have them available.

                        Materials Useful for hamfests, classrooms, etc.

Building Relationships with Schools

How do we get our message into schools? It is simple. Reach out to your children and grandchildren. Review their textbooks. Engage their teachers. Volunteer to do a demonstration.  If we work together it will all come together.

As I mentioned earlier let’s pay attention and learn from the UK’s effort with FUNcube, which launches in November. FUNcube ‘s purpose is to integrate with the UK’s curriculum by focusing on STEM education,  especially in the area of radio, electronics, physics and orbital mechanics. Their lesson plans should be easily adapted for our use as well.


We are a volunteer organization and we need your help. Things only get done if we do them ourselves.

We need

  • Web content person(s) for AMSAT®’s education outreach web pages
    • Maintain calendar of amateur radio youth events
    • Assist in populating the AMSAT® Education Outreach web pages with useful information
    • Archivist/publicist of satellite educational activities (photos, stories for Journal, press, videos)
    • Web researcher to “mine,” collect, and organize existing lesson plans/ideas that may prove useful
    • K-12 educators that can write lesson plans/ideas using satellite telemetry, etc. related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
      • ARISS, Fox Satellites related lesson plans
      • Mentors and ground station operators (with equipment!) for ARISS contacts
      • Assemblers to construct simulators for distribution


What can YOU do to help?

  • Join AMSAT® and if you are a member to actively recruit new members
  • Join the AMSAT-EDU mailing list (www.amsat.org for details/instructions)
    • Engage educators to join AMSAT-EDU
    • Volunteer for a specific task! kc8yld@AMSAT.org
    • Educators: We need lesson plans/ideas related to satellites and amateur radio
    • Educators: sign up for ARRL Teacher’s Institute program!
      • Or if you know an Educator, encourage them to sign up for ARRL Teacher’s Institute Program!