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All Saints STEAM Academy (AS2A) was notified Wednesday that its live question and answer session with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has been scheduled for the week of May 2, 2016. The specific day and time for the contact will be confirmed early March 2016. This will be Rhode Island’s first radio contact between a school and the ISS.
The next milestone will be system testing of the primary radio and antenna tracking system needed to keep the radio signal tightly focused on the ISS as it passes overhead at 17,500 mph.
AS2A continues to work closely with Newport County Radio Club (NCRC) which has provided the school with technical mentors. Club secretary Bob Beatty said, “It was natural for NCRC to partner with All Saints Academy since amateur radio brings science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) to the table and All Saints is an important Petri dish for the kinds of technologies needed to power our state’s advanced industries.” Other project supporters include KVH, IBM, ATC Tech, Salve University, Arts & Cultural Alliance, and the Providence chapter of the IEEE.
In May the school was chosen as one of 6 U.S. schools to host a radio contact with the International Space Station during the first half of 2016.
In their pre kindergarten through grade 8 grade school, AS2A incorporates the STEAM curriculum model. Students learn through hands on activities that run the gamut from coding with SCRATCH, programming robots, hydroponics, finding and solving cyber security flaws, to sewing e fashions fitted with sensors and are programmed to light up and transmit information.
During the 2014 2015 school year, five AS2A middle school students passed the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) amateur radio exam and earned their U.S. callsigns. Mike Cullen, the STEAM technical adviser who is managing the space station contact event, secured callsign N1ASA for the school’s newly formed amateur radio club.
Voice contacts with the space station use amateur radio frequencies and typically last 10 minutes — the average length of an orbital pass — and give students a chance to interact with the astronauts in a rapid fire, question and answer format.
NASA promotes the program as an opportunity for the space crews to get a psychological boost speaking with smart, inquisitive youngsters, and the students get a memorable, first hand STEM experience that can shape future career paths.
To prepare for the May 2016 contact, All Saints’ students and teachers are participating in many space themed activities, including a focus on managing space trash and the operation of satellites. All Saints plans to live stream the event.
Interested schools, educators and members of the public are invited to use a Google online form to get involved and follow AS2A’s “out of this world” event. Those interested in closely tracking developments, can sign up using the GoogleForm HERE