Name: Cole Harlow

Type of Project: Creative Endeavors

Link to Project Blog:

The purpose of my project was to record photographs and videos of a near-space environment (approx 100,000 ft). To do this I utilized a High Altitude Balloon with components of my design. To monitor the balloon from afar I created a microcontroller-based tracking program which allowed the location of the balloon to be monitored in real-time. Through the course of this project, I have launched two balloons successfully and am preparing to launch a third this winter. To make this design process more transformative I also created a website to create tutorials to replicate all of the HABs I launched for this project.

The design and construction of the balloon helped me to become more confident in my ability to learn to write new types of code and to learn to work with new tools and machines. More importantly, the tutorial part of this project helped me to discover the enjoyment that can be derived from teaching others how to create similar projects. Through this process of teaching, I was not only able to re-affirm my knowledge but I was also forced to explain each piece of the project succinctly and understandably. By doing this I came to enjoy the process of teaching others and I am now hoping to take the information documented on my website and use it to create videos to train others how to create a HAB. The discovery of my enjoyment from teaching also helped me to clarify my future goals in terms of my education. I believe that after completing this project I am more interested in pursuing a Ph.D. so that I can teach engineering in a university setting.

One of the reasons I came to enjoy helping others through tutorials and videos is because I know how useful they can be. A lot of my project was simplified due to the hours spent by many other people to document and create their projects. Through virtually every step of this process, I was able to turn to similar projects for guidance. I also became more familiar with websites such as GitHub which is just designed to allow people to work together on coding projects. This program helps to facilitate collaboration online by allowing users to post their code and allowing other users to use this code and suggest changes to make it better. Some of the code on this website is truly incredible and very informative and helpful to people using the code. In addition to this, I also found a huge plethora of people who had created their website to aid others in learning new concepts. Through these websites and GitHub, I was able to understand the impact that creating tutorials for others can have, and this has made me enthusiastic to continue educating the public through similar tutorials.

In addition to this through the process of launching the balloons, I learned of the enthusiasm that people can have to learn new topics and ideas. Many of my friends, family, and neighbors helped me to launch and retrieve this balloon. Through this process, many of these friends expressed their interest in and asked questions about the balloon. The enthusiasm which these people showed, helped me to understand the interest in STEM projects like HABs can create in the general public. I hope that as I continue to create more HABs and other projects that by documenting these projects and reaching out to teach others I can increase the interest people in my community have in STEM.

Finally, through this project, I also became familiar with the American Radio Relay League. The ARRL is a group of hobbyist in the united states that use their knowledge and skills with radios to create massive communication networks for various purposes. These networks can be used to transmit all kinds of information and can allow users to talk to others from across the world. Members of the ARRL have also created ways to send emails to even the most remote places in the world and can also support other data such as video being transmitted. Perhaps most interesting ARRL has also created an emergency network which can be used to alert others and coordinate rescue operations in during emergencies. Becoming familiar with this technology further showed me the impact that hobbyist can have on the lives of everyday people through their selfless work. This made me want to continue working on projects similar to those done by ARRL in the hope of inspiring others in becoming involved as well as to potentially provide useful information to ARRL members.

As previously mentioned this transformation is significant because it has shown me the enjoyment that can be derived from helping others to learn new topics and concepts. This is helpful because it will be useful in determining the end goal of my education. Even if I choose not to pursue a Ph.D. it showed me the interest I have in teaching others through a variety of methods such as YouTube or blogging. Although these are not usually thought of as places for receiving information the increasing prevalence of the maker community has made these mediums for information increasingly useful and beneficial to the greater community.