NearSys, an American company servicing the high altitude balloon hobby community is currently developing flight computers to control mechanical servos. The small and light weight flight computers, called , will offer users the ability to trigger a mechanical servo during flight which gives operators the scope to open apertures, release portions of the payload, or open collection devices like petri dishes.
Paul Verhage from NearSys gave us a brief overview of what they offer. Paul said, “For those not familiar with them, BalloonSats, or balloon satellites are functional models of satellites that operate in near space. They are engineered structures that collect science data in a space like environment. This makes BalloonSats a powerful STEM activity that unites all four elements of STEM. Near space is that region of Earth’s atmosphere above 60,000 feet (the top of controlled air space) and below 328,000 feet (the lower boundary of outer space). In near space, conditions are such that it looks and feels like outer space. However, reaching near space is roughly 1,000 times less costly. Because BalloonSats involve a model of the space program, ,they become an activity that many children (and adults) will enjoy. My PhD dissertation studied the effects that a BalloonSat program had on science attitudes. I discovered that students developed a 3% increase in their interest in science as a hobby activity. This is important because students with science hobby interests are more likely to take science in school and work harder at it. Working harder results in greater success in science (or any subject for that matter) and that success breeds greater interest in taking more science and trying harder still. If we can increase the number of students taking science and being successful at it, we can raise of culture of science-literate adults who are more capable of working in STEM fields and solving STEM-related problems vexing our would. You can read my dissertation at, http://nearsys.com/pubs/publications.htm
The products I sell are kits that students or student teams can assemble to collect science data in near space. The kits are designed to create high levels of success in student teams building them while giving them more than just a cookbook lab activity. The flight computers are programmable and will collect data from a variety of sensors I sell and am designing. Students building BalloonSats can focus on engineering a model satellite that will collect data without worrying about the launch, tracking, or recovering issues entailed in a near space mission. If a local near space group is not available to launch the students BalloonSats, they can be mailed back to me where I can launch them in Idaho.”