Trevor Macduff (KS1LAS) is a high school teacher in Tri-Cities and founder of nonprofit SILAS Education. Has been connecting with educators, STEM leaders, and amateur radio gurus all over the world to launch balloons together.
Last year, Macduff started launching balloons with satellites attached. He saw HAM radio and ballooning connected what students learn in textbooks with real-life science.
Then, he got the idea to do a global launch that connected educators, ham radio enthusiasts, and students together for the "Equinox Launch"
"We figured--we can network around the world, we can train on zoom, and we can get teachers to do this," said Macduff.
First, he looked for funding and a local entrepreneur came through to help.
"Because of Steve Lee's generosity I was actually able to fund every single teacher on this to get a Sky Tracker, to get a super-pressure SBS-13 balloon," said Macduff.
Now, there are seventeen balloons being launched by educators and others from quite a few states as well as countries like Nigeria, Thailand, Australia, and Argentina.
Bill Brown (WB8ELK) is the inventor of the Sky Tracker technology used for these launches, an electrical engineer at NASA, as well as a high altitude ballooning and amateur radio expert.
"I did a big event for a local school---a bunch of sixth graders. A week later I was at a restaurant and one of the students came up to me and said 'Mr. Brown, I didn't know what I wanted to do in life--what my career or goals would be, but now I know. I want to become an astronaut.' So that's the whole reason I do this," said Brown.
As of now, quite a few launches have happened so far. Each person is launching theirs at different times throughout the week--depending on weather conditions. Macduff says there's at least one kid attached to every launch involved in the journey of each balloon.
"They're watching the entire globe unfold underneath the balloon that they helped launch," said Macduff.
Joanne Michael (KM6BWB) is an educator in Los Angeles, California. She says these launches provide opportunities for interesting lessons for teachers.
"It pulls in so many different disciplines," says Michael.
Greg Hellard (VK3ZWI) is a teacher in Melbourne, Australia.
"It also links in with empathy so that we know the countries were flying over we get to know the people that are in our part of the world," said Hellard.
Most everyone shares a common goal, first, to circumnavigate the globe. Secondly, to show students science applied, bringing passion into the classroom and beyond.
Audrey McElroy (KM4BUN) is a 17-year-old from Georgia who is passionate about HAM radio and ballooning.
"Its an understatement to say that there needs to be more involvement from youth in amateur radio," said McElroy.