STEM Students Work over the Summer

By Rick Russon, Valor STEM Coordinator

In Valor STEM, I help students work on individual projects based on whatever interests them. Whatever they’re interested in exploring, we do everything we can to help them!

Read how several Valor students continue to work on STEM special interest projects over the summer:

Carbon Fiber – The Material of the Future

Colin Nolan is working on the creation of carbon fiber laminated rocket fins.  Carbon fiber is a material that is finding its way into a lot of products as the price drops.  It is essential that Valor STEM develops fabrication skills in this area.

On the surface, this seems like a simple project.  As Colin progresses he is encountering engineering decisions such as how thick should the plywood substrate be?  What weight of carbon fiber cloth should be used?  Should the texture be 1×1 or 2×2?  How should the cloth be oriented on the substrate?  What is the best resin to use?  These kinds of real-life problems and solutions bring STEM students valuable experience in every project.

Summer Space Engineering

Christian Wyatt is preparing for another high-altitude balloon (HAB) launch in early July.  Please follow the STEM Facebook and Twitter channels for the launch announcement and real-time tracking information.

Seth Lewicki, Mary Hoover, and Carson Lloyd have been building and flying rockets.  One of Mary’s rockets experienced a spectacular on-pad explosion that destroyed the rocket and pad. Joe Bowen, from Colorado Rocketry Association of Space Hobbyists, believes the rocket motor was damaged either by thermal cycling or physical impact. This is a rare event but reinforces why we follow strict safety protocols.

Meanwhile, I am is working on an HAB payload that follows the CubeSat standard. A basic CubeSat unit (1U) is a 10cm cube. These units can be combined to form 2U, 3U, or 6U CubeSats. The basic avionics complement in the cube is a power system, on-board computer (OBC), and communications system. These boards use COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) components to keep costs low. Any electrical engineers who would like to volunteer some time to help us develop some custom circuit boards for the CubeSats should contact me.

A project like this takes a lot of expertise by many people. Mrs. Kay’s husband, Shawn, provided advice on satellite communications.  My buddy at Johnson Space Center, Mitch Polt, for referring me to flight-qualified CubeSat resources.  Jim Langsted, from Edge of Space Sciences, offered advice on balloon selection and launch operations, and Bill Dunn from Denver TRACON provided direction on safe operation of our balloons in this crowded airspace. Students are still needed to work on the CubeSat and ground station.

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