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Can twitter jumpstart space exploration?

August 14, 2011

A while ago, I blogged about a project started by a student of mine, M, to launch a weather balloon into space, and to have sixth graders in our Junior High help her to do it. M made a lot progress last year, meeting about half a dozen times to talk about the project with the sixth graders, ordering all the materials she needed, and starting a blog, but as the spring wore on, we got busier and busier and never quite got to the point of actually building the payload for the balloon.

But M’s persistance is strong, and just a few days ago, she wrote me this email:

Hey Mr. Burk,
I hope you’ve had a great summer! With a new school year coming around I started thinking about a new year with the space explorers club. I have everything together and some fun plans for the new year. The only thing that I’m really stuck on is learning how to program the OpenTracker. I don’t know much at all about programming, so it’s been a little tough for me to get started, and I don’t think I can completely rely on 6th and 7th graders to help me program. I was wondering if you knew anyone (teacher or high school student) that I could talk to and get a bit of guidance on how to get started. I hope you have a great rest of the summer!


I wrote M back with some suggestions and said I’d be happy to help her, but I also thought that we really need to connect with some of the other groups out there who are doing projects like this.

So I sent out this tweet:!/occam98/status/102384068515201025A few minutes later, I got this reply

And minutes later, got these replies:

Plus another collaborator:

I had previously known of two other space balloon programs:

I’d love to put together a bigger collaboration of programs around the country and world collaborating on space balloon projects, sharing data, designs and other tips. I thought I remember seeing a website about this somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it this morning (maybe it was HobbySpace?). If you’re interested in getting this going, leave me a comment, and I’ll see what we can do.

Here’s that huge pile of links that Geoff sent me:

Maybe it won’t be NASA building the next manned space vehicle that will get kids fired up about becoming astronauts. What if, instead, it is twitter connecting space balloon enthusiasts around the world that launches the next era of space exploration.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2011 10:35 am

    HobbySpace looks to have some good resources, but perhaps we could create a blog or wiki for groups/clubs found here to come together specifically for this collaboration project. I have experience with blogs and websites, but not much with wikis…

    How about an Edmodo group?

    Or simply a twitter hashtag? (Twitter is still unavailable to many at school, however.)

    • August 14, 2011 10:26 pm

      I think a wiki or an edmodo group would be a great idea, and I’d love for students to set it up. I’ll talk to my student and see what she thinks.

  2. August 14, 2011 11:30 pm

    I can get you in touch with faculty/students from The Bay School if you want. I have contacts there.

    • August 14, 2011 11:34 pm

      Awesome. Dave Wang, a math teacher and former academic dean is also a good friend of mine.


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