Story by Haley Humphrey & Katie Duer
Photo courtesy of Bill Richards
The Business building is quiet upon entry in the evening hours, except in one area. The low hum of a projector mixes with voices discussing technology far past the typical brain knowledge of most humans. The Cyber Security Club convened in Room 101. The small group of members was brainstorming their next move--meticulously deliberating over how to make this year’s high-altitude balloon better than the one launched last year.
A high-altitude balloon is similar to a radiosonde used by meteorologists, which measures weather elements, such as: Pressure, temperature and relative humidity. The high-altitude balloon, which the Cyber Security program has funded since December 2017 measures air pressure, humidity, altitude (latitude and longitude) and location. Some may be thinking: Why is the STEM Center, which is home to meteorology majors, not orchestrating this project? While the Cyber Security Club has reached out to professors like Steve Carano, they are interested in going outside of their normal surroundings. Most would not picture this technological club coordinating a project that has a significant relationship with weather. But they did it last year, and they are back for more results.
Russell Winburn, first-year Cyber Security major, was ecstatic to share the success of the first launch, despite not being involved last year. He is one of the club’s newest members. The club welcomes anyone, whether they are part of the cyber program or not. This year they have grown from seven to roughly 12 team members. February and March are the beginning stages of getting back in the groove of meetings; therefore, only a handful were present. However, that does not mean the members who show up late or cannot make the meetings are unable to participate. The club has a D2L page where the students can sign up and post discussions of new ideas.
During the March 1 meeting, five team members and the club’s adviser, Bill Richards, discussed materials needed and what they could recycle from last year. The idea that “better” does not always have to be “newer” is what many of the members identify with.
The deconstruction of the high-altitude balloon launched last year assembled like this:
Ethan Fowler, first-year Cyber Security major and Payload Coordinator, fidgeted with a Raspberry Pi 3 as he listened to Roy Baggett, Drone Leader, contemplate updating the sensors for ozone and radiation. There are no wrong moves in the spitball stages of this process; Fowler nodded in compliance of Baggett’s suggestion.
The 2017 launch took place May 13 at Choctaw Creek Park. The flight’s predictions, which were gathered from HabHub.org, informed the team that the balloon would land in Prague.
As Richards went through a PowerPoint of pictures from last year’s launch, the members smiled when a photo emerged on the screen of the team’s “pilot,” which was a tiny, plastic figurine Batman that stayed firmly in place the entire four-hour flight. Questions were raised as to what/who will be the new pilot, the new lucky charm for the team. A glimpse of the fun, nerdy side of the club members was evident.
The starting point and the chase to follow and retrieve the balloon will be like last year. There will be four vehicles and three people inside each, one being the driver, one in the passenger seat being the navigator and one in the back seat being the communicator. At least one person out of the group must have an amateur radio license to use an Automatic Packet Reporting System, which tells the team immediate and exact digital information in a local area.
Once last year’s balloon had deployed its parachute in an expansive field owned by a Prague farmer, the team asked his permission to reclaim their equipment and excitedly examined their finished product.
They simultaneously agreed they were lucky it did not land somewhere in a body of water or in a tree. Fingers are crossed that this year’s final location will be the same.
This year the Cyber Club has predetermined their launch date to be toward the end of May. Fowler is optimistic this year will show a stronger outcome since they are more prepared with issues that occurred last year, such as: Technical problems with the sensor computers, minor loss of communication with the FFA’s disconnection of their notice to airmen and mechanical hold-ups with a vehicle getting stuck in mud during the balloon chase.
“One big thing I hope to improve on from the last flight is student participation,” Fowler said.
Winburn agreed with Fowler, also hoping for more campus involvement.
“I want Rose State to prosper from [the launch],” said Winburn.
The Cyber Security program will be recognized throughout the community.
The 2018 launch window is set to occur May 26 at 10 a.m. The Cyber Club urged guests to become involved and be present at the launch. For more details, contact Richards at email@example.com.