Clint Thomsen teaches at the Community Learning Center. The Community Learning Center is like a magnet school where students are able to attend for a few periods a day and take specialized classes that are not offered at their home school. The Community Learning Center is part of a Career Technical Education (CTE) program. Clint teaches IT classes including Linux, Ethical Hacking, Cyber Forensics, and Computer Systems.
Students from a couple of CTE programs in the district recently sent off their 7th weather balloon on May 13, 2023. Usually, they launch up north in the Logan area because of larger areas to send and recover payloads, but the winds looked favorable to launch from Skull Valley (west of Tooele) and land in a ghost town called Iosepa. The various teams were tracking the balloon using LoRa, APRS, and Satellite. The balloon was extremely large, at the altitude that the balloon burst it had expanded to the size of a school bus. Because of this size it reached an unusually high altitude, that when it burst, they could see it from the ground. The parachute had been modified so as to bring the payload down quickly.
This payload consisted of 4 cameras 2 aimed for the horizon, 1 facing upward, and 1 facing downward. The capsule was made of foamboard and carbon fiber. Students make up all of the teams, and each team is given specific responsibilities. The design and construction of the capsule was created by the engineering team. A second engineering team designed the sensor board. Several sensors were included with this capsule where students were monitoring data. A programming team created a mobile app, and there was a payload team in charge of the balloon. There were even media teams on Facebook Live and YouTube Live.
The balloon burst at 107,000 feet, and was traced using APRS, LoRa, and a satellite beacon. As the balloon was coming down a low altitude gust carried the balloon further west than preferred. The balloon, instead of having a quick landing, had a nice slow soft landing. Clint and his seniors were then off to retrieve their payload. This retrieval was not an easy task. The payload landed in the Cedar Mountains. Clint and his students had a 10-mile round trip hike to retrieve their payload. This was not on groomed trails; they were following the signals from the payload. The final recovery was aided by a MicroFox audio beacon.
Upon the successful collection of their balloon, they were able to download pictures/video from the cameras as well as download the data from their sensors.
Congratulations on a successful launch and retrieval of your payload this year.
The story for the Community Learning Center does not end here. They were chosen to have an ARISS contact this year (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station). An ARISS contact lets students around the world talk directly with the crew of the ISS. The preparation and execution of this event is a major undertaking. Currently ARISS contact is scheduled for the week of April 8, 2024.