Anacapa School reaches for the stars with STEAM power and LINC

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Graduate research fellow Levi Maaia focuses his research on digital literacies in teaching and learning and ways in which technology-enabled learning programs can be adapted in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.  For the past five years he has taught media and technology courses to grades 7-12 at Anacapa School, a small, independent school in Santa Barbara which has caused him to become particularly interested in the emerging STEM to STEAM movement.

Fore more on Levi’s work, visit levi.maaia.com

The Anacapa Near Space Exploration Club (ANSEC)  was founded in 2010 by Anacapa students under Levi’s guidance.  The first student team designed and built Anacapa Amateur High-Altitude Balloon 1 (AAHAB-1), which launched on May 21, 2011, returning stunning still images from an altitude of 91,122 feet after its two-hour and 10-minute flight over the California Central Coast.  The probe was tracked and recovered thanks to the digital APRS system supported by Central Coast hams.

In 2012, a second team consisting of new and returning crew members built off of the success with a second near space probe, AAHAB-2.  The second team set even more ambitious goals, including a live Amateur Television downlink, high-definition video recording, radiation sensors and live APRS atmospheric telemetry.  On May 5, 2012, AAHAB-2 returned to Earth after a project record-breaking flight peaking at more than 111,814 feet above the surface.

Both flights received local and national news media attention and a video summary of the two AAHAB flights was the 2013 QST Video Contest first place winner.

Two years almost to the day after the launch of AAHAB-1 on May 22, 2013, ANSEC’s Team 3, which consisted of several student hams, had a chance to speak with NASA Astronaut and former Navy SEAL Christopher J. Cassidy via a live Amateur Radio link to the International Space Station (ISS). The 10-minute Q&A session went off without a hitch at the hilltop campus of QAD, Inc.  The arrangement was made possible by Anacapa School’s participation in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Teaching From Space program.

A multimedia library from Project AAHAB as well as a video of the ISS contact can be found at www.anacapaschool.org/ansec.

With several ANSEC members having graduated to engineering and computer science programs at schools such as UCLA, Cal Poly and University of Denver, Levi decided that Anacapa needed a program to equip its new students with the skills needed to continue to design and develop engineering projects like these. STEAM Lab is a new course he is offering at Anacapa this year which combines Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics plus elements of Art (the “A” in STEAM) into a discovery-learning laboratory.  Students are learning basic electronics theory and gaining experience with circuits and electrical engineering, “Arduino” microcontroller programming and computer programming while creating, building and sometimes breaking gadgets and gizmos along the way.

Like the great scientists and inventors, the STEAM Lab students will document as much as they can about the process of creating.  They will make extensive engineering notes, document their experiences on video and even keep video and handwritten journals to remind them of what worked and what didn’t.  Students will be asked to incorporate art and design into their engineering projects and learn to appreciate form and function.  They will also be encouraged to earn their Amateur Radio Technician licenses. By the end of the year, the class should have the tools to begin creating their own electronics projects and inventions.  What makes this course unique, is that students will focus on engineering as an art and will learn about the societal impacts of new technologies.

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