HAB & STEM At AntennaPalooza 2023

What is Antennapalooza – Antennapalooza takes place at Drouin West, about an hour’s drive East of Melbourne. Antennapalooza is a different kind of event that brings people together from multiple clubs, creating an opportunity for individuals to network with each other and get back into Amateur Radio in a quiet surroundings. Operators can come along with their tent, caravan or swag and set up their radio and antennas for a weekend in an RF quiet space, which is a luxury for most of us in the Amateur Radio space. These days RF noise is a big issue for most Amateur Radio operators who live in and around the city, Antennapalooza offers amateurs a great opportunity to work their equipment in quiet surroundings.

For some it is an opportunity to put up and try out antennas they don’t have room for at home. For others they can socialize and listen to the various technical talks delivered by authors from diverse backgrounds. There are multiple sessions conducted through the weekend offering individuals an opportunity to explore related Amateur Radio related STEM topics.

VK3FUR Michaela Delivering Her Talk

What were we asked to do – The event organizers asked EMDRC (Eastern & Mountain District Radio Club) if they were keen to run a session on High Altitude Ballooning, the committee passed on that request to me and some of the folks within the EMDRC High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) team. We offered to run the session with Brad VK3BKQ (supported by Ryan VK3InTheMaking) and Luke VK3UKW assisting with the presentation. We’ve been running presentations on High Altitude Ballooning for a while with a focus on launch, chase and recovery. However this time around i thought of mixing things up a bit and instead of just talking about High Altitude Ballooning why not use it as an opportunity to talk about how we might use High Altitude Ballooning to get kids of various ages engaged with hands on STEM activities, indirectly promoting Amateur Radio as a hobby. High Altitude Ballooning presents a great opportunity for us to engage with others outside the Amateur Radio hobby and get them interested in related STEM activities.

So that’s what we did, we worked together on the presentation, reviewed it internally and made relevant updates based on feedback obtained and used the final content for the presentation at the event scheduled for the 15th of April 2023. There’s still more work to be done, the slide deck is still quite large and i need to get rid of at-least 5-7 slides, slim things down a bit and have optional content to get through time permitting.

What did we end up doing – The presentation was a joint effort by Luke VK3UKW, Brad VK3BKQ, Ryan VK3InTheMaking and Trevor VK3TWC. The audience chipped in a fair bit, sharing their knowledge on HAB tracking with some in the audience sharing their own HAB trackers they were carrying around with them.

Trevor VK3TWC covered off the slides in an interactive session, sharing with the audience the learning gained through the last 3 High Altitude Balloon launches the EMDRC team had conducted. Trevor tried to make the session as interactive as possible, engaging the audience as best as he could, getting individuals within the audience to share their experiences. Some of the folks within the audience were also keen to showcase HAB tracking gear (LilyGo trackers) they had with them, they were invites to showcase their trackers and talk about their experiences.

Luke VK3UKW, Tom V3FTOM chipped in at relevant points in time sharing their experiences across the 3 High Altitude Balloon launches, talking about some of the challenges experienced and lessons learned.

Amateurs Camping with their equipment at AntennaPalooza

Luke VK3UKW had also setup the table with his radios, raspberry pi and RTL SDR’s which he uses to track the High Altitude Balloon payload. Towards the end of the talk Luke VK3UKW walked the audience through the tracking setup which included an Icom 7000 radio connected to a windows machine running Horus Gui for purposes of tracking the HORUS payload (reprogrammed RS41).

Brad VK3BKQ showcased his tracking gear mounted within a rugged case along with his Wenet tracking setup. Brad VK3BKQ also had mounted his Raspberry Pi Wenet setup and his reprogrammed RS41 (HORUS binary) on top of a squid pole so people could test out their tracking up while configuring their radios.

Lessons learned – Here’s what we think worked really well for the session.

  1. Setting up of the table, showcasing the BoM Radiosonde, a reprogrammed Radiosonde, a Wenet payload with a tablet to receive the pictures.
  2. Showcasing a setup including an Icom 7000 receiving data from the reprogrammed (HORUS binary) Radiosonde and uploading that data to Sondehub through the connected Windows PC running HORUS Gui.
  3. Getting Brad VK3BQ’s son Ryan to take the Raspberry Pi payload and the RS41 around so that everyone could touch, feel them and check out the payload.
  4. Running an interactive session where the audience was engaged from the start.
  5. Talking to the audience about the various STEM learning opportunities High Altitude Ballooning presents for kids of all ages.
  6. Share how HAB might be used to get folks indirectly interested in Amateur Radio.

Here’s what we should have done but didn’t do –

  1. Take an RTLSDR, Raspberry pi, mini display, keyboard/mouse (and a portable antenna if at all possible) to showoff the auto-rx and chasemapper reception capability.
  2. Take a long one of the TTGO boards configured with mySondy on the phone to demo last mile chase capability.
  3. We should setup the slide deck to circle through pictures from the launch before the session starts. This could be a good Segway into the actual presentation.
  4. I should have marked the additional slides as reference only slides (Which has now been done).
  5. I need to reduce the number of slides in the main presentation, reduce them by around 5-7 and move those 5-7 into the final section only to be used time permitting.

Closing notes – Grab a copy of the presentation here – Google Docs (latest) https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1RP2l6t2OlAQJd20RJ_a38Ly_6-lMyRjdDT0C8Amgf3Q/edit?usp=sharing or through this website http://hack2.live/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/High-Altitude-Ballooning-STEM-Learning-Opportunities-for-Kids-of-All-Ages.pdf. We hope you learned something useful from this post. Check out the High Altitude Balloon resources at https://hack2.live/high-altitude-ballooning/ and drop us a note if you have any questions at trevor at hack2 dot live.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *