College of Engineering

ASCEND (Aerospace STEM Challenges to Educate New Discoverers)

Students exam the payload after the balloon popped and parachuted to the ground. Top row (from left): Lisa Ferguson, Aaron Petreck; Bottom row (from left): Clayton Jacobs, Mo Sabliny, unknown student from another university



Embry-Riddle NASA Space Grant’s ASCEND (Aerospace STEM Challenges to Educate New Discoverers) project is a high-altitude balloon launch currently with 6 participating schools in Arizona. The Arizona Space Grant Consortium and Arizona Near Space Research (ANSR) put together ASCEND twice a year to give aspiring engineering students the ability to work on hands-on projects with structure design and electronics. The basic premise of the project is to build a balloon payload with a research experiment to conduct in the upper atmosphere (up to 100,000 feet). This could be an experiment on any range of scientific and/or engineering topics such as attitude determination, structure design, radio communications, or almost anything you can possible think of within a 3 pound limit. There are few limitations and specifications which allows for a lot of student originality and creativity!

Spring 2013’s ASCEND project focused on building an attitude determination system with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and GPS to track the payload. On top of that was the HASP (High-Altitude Student Platform, another NASA Space Grant project) payload, which consisted of an atmospheric sampling system in search for pollutant gas (such as natural gas) and carbon monoxide gas via air flow through the new structure built for testing; designed and manufactured on campus in Prescott, AZ. The electronics were programmed by Arduino and run by an Arduino processor. The balloon launch was on March 23rd just north of Gila Bend, AZ, a peak altitude of about 91,000 feet, and landing in Oro Valley, AZ. Our payload had a failure, but overall conclusive results. The GPS was unable to get a signal, and therefore did not record any data for the entire flight. The rest of our sensors did work. The gas sensors however were not sensitive enough to detect any gas, therefore concluding that higher quality sensors are needed for HASP. The accelerometer and gyroscope data is currently undergoing analysis, and the structure held up very well. Creating ideas for next semester’s ASCEND flight is underway!

Team Members: 

-Mo Sabliny (Project Lead/Structure Lead)
-Aaron Petreck (Programming Lead)
-Clayton Jacobs (Electronics Lead)
-Lisa Ferguson (Programming/Structure)
-Chelsea Katan (Programming/Data Analysis)
-Ciara Thompson (Structure)
-Zach Henney (HASP payload)

Faculty Mentors:

-Jack Crabtree (College of Engineering)
-Dr. Ron Madler (Dean of College of Engineering)
-Dr. Douglas Isenberg (College of Engineering)