As a follow-up to a semester-long project in which experiments built by two Community College of Aurora student teams were launched via high-altitude balloon, the CCA BalloonSat biology team presented its findings at the Colorado Undergraduate Space Research Symposium on April 17. What happened there was wonderful reward for all their hard work: The team earned the grand prize for its presentation, besting teams from CU Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado. CCA was the only community college invited to present a paper.
The Colorado Space Grant Symposium provided this opportunity for students to present their research and ideas in space-related fields to their peers, industry, and academia. Sixteen teams from four schools from around Colorado submitted papers this year and presented their research during the Symposium. Teams and individuals, freshman through seniors, researched a variety of topics and presented their research or practical engineering projects. The papers were judged on technical content, scientific merit and originality (45 percent), practical application (15 percent), and clarity of writing (10 percent), and the visual and oral presentation and response to questions accounted for 30 percent of the overall score.
CCA biology team members were Katherine Cullis, Shellene Wright, Puja Kapoor, Kim Richard, and Susanna Jacobs.
The team’s presentation, “The Effects of Near Space Conditions on the Genome E. coli,” was the culmination of a project that began in the fall of 2009, shortly after CCA was selected as an affiliate institution of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. The team planned, designed, and built its experiment during the fall semester for launch from Deer Trail, Colo., on January 16. The experiment was included on the launch with one other CCA student-built payload and experiments from three other Colorado community colleges. The high-altitude balloon traveled some 33 miles south, then east, and reached an altitude of 77,847’ before bursting. FAA clearance had been obtained in advance of the launch.
Immediately following liftoff, numerous volunteers, primarily from the non-profit, Denver-based group Edge of Space Sciences, joined the students and their professors on a “track and chase” of the balloon so that payloads could be retrieved for analysis. Within weeks, the students traveled to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., to present their findings. They were accompanied by faculty members Victor Andersen (physics and astronomy), and Todd Bergren (biology).
The CCA teams worked throughout the semester under the direction of Andersen, who also serves as space grant affiliate director to the Consortium for CCA.