STEM Students Engaged in NASA ASCEND Launch
TUESDAY, MAY 2, 2023
En Español. The Phoenix College (PC) NASA ASCEND program is a capstone aerospace internship program that invites students to work on a relevant, real-world NASA–related science and engineering project. The high-altitude ballooning project funded by the Arizona/NASA Space Grant provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate engineering students to apply their skills and prepare for success in their future careers.
Eddie Ong, a NASA ASCEND faculty mentor and science advisor, oversees the program’s weekly progress. “We construct launch vehicles, design real scientific and engineering packages, and then launch them on a helium balloon, along with nine other colleges, to study Earth’s atmosphere,” he explained. This kind of experience is typically not introduced until a student’s senior year of college or graduate school, so its availability for community college students builds a pipeline of competent transfer students who continue their education at university, often as a cohort to support each other.
Preparing Students for STEM-related workspaces
The ASCEND program trains and prepares students to work in STEM-related workspaces, a strategy to keep the United States a competitor in STEM fields. Ernest Villicana serves as the engineering faculty mentor and career advisor. Both mentors, who foster the development of the team’s leadership skills, note the program opens the students’ eyes to all the possibilities of a STEM education. PC engineering and science students involved in the project are: Ivan Gonzalez, Andrew Sherant, Orion Martin, Jacob Brannon, Collin Montgomery, Javier Herrera, Javier Chacon, Lorynn Garcia, Michael Bittner, Rayan Alasow, and Jasmin Lopez. They worked together collaboratively within four sub-teams: 1) mechanical/vehicle fabrication, 2) atmosphere profiling, 3) video stabilization, and 4) website/archive.
Fall 2022 Launch Video
The Fall 2022 launch objective was to gather data on Earth’s atmosphere and the vehicle launch parameters. One of the accomplishments of the successful launch was acquiring two-plus hours of stable and steady video images of the Earth’s atmosphere and ground, even as the vehicle was spinning at about 75 rpm. The videos, in 360 and VR formats, are available on YouTube, with the option to upload the videos to a VR goggle for a more immersive experience.
Spring 2023 Launch Data
During the Spring 2023 launch, the Pfotzer-Regener radiation maximum was encountered at an altitude of 69,000 feet. Data on view at left.
Students interested in STEM are encouraged to apply for the NASA ASCEND program.