Space race: Raytown students build low-orbit satellite - KCTV5 News

Space race: Raytown students build low-orbit satellite

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Every Tuesday at 3 p.m., the high school shop classroom transforms into mission control. (KCTV5) Every Tuesday at 3 p.m., the high school shop classroom transforms into mission control. (KCTV5)

Every Tuesday at 3 p.m., the high school shop classroom transforms into mission control.

Students examine diagrams, craft models and discuss designs for a project worthy of NASA scientists. They are building a low-orbit satellite.

Raytown South High School senior Camron Jones leans over a circuit board with a soldering kit. This project has required him to learn collegiate-level engineering skills. 

It's part of the reason he decided to join Raytown's Mission to Space: IGNITE Satellite Program, a partnership with a manufacturing company called Interorbital Systems.

The project helps students design and craft a working satellite designed to orbit the earth at nearly 200 miles above its surface. The satellite will stay in orbit for as long as a month before it falls.

"It's that next step up from working on the basics," Jones said. "I felt it would give me that foot through the door in terms of engineering as a career."

The program combines more than 20 students from Raytown High School and Raytown South. Each student plays a vital role in working toward a launch. While Jones works on circuit boards other students build prototypes, write computer code or work on a marketing strategy for the project.

Jordan Meyer, a Raytown senior, oversees the team. 

"You can talk about doing something and learn about it," he said. "But until you step in and do that you don't know what to expect."

One requirement of the project is that the students have to lead the project, form their own plans, and implement them with minimal help from teachers. Raytown faculty and representatives from local companies like Garmin come to observe and consult, but can only exert minimal influence on the design process.

Melissa Tebbenkamp, the school's director of technology, has watched with pride as the students have collaborated and researched concepts far more advanced than a high school curriculum.

"It's not the adult's project," Tebbenkamp insisted. "It's not teacher driven or the technology department's. It's about the students building that satellite."

Part of that ideology means the students must accept when the project does not go as planned. Initially they were supposed to launch at the conclusion of the school year in May. But Tebbenkamp says the students have encountered design flaws and other setbacks. 

"We have a lot of conversations about 'it's not an individual failure," she sad. "It's a team failure but they can overcome it if they're communicating."

Tebbenkamp said the project will not launch before summer break, but that the students are moving out of their design phase into a construction phase. That means the students have overcome a tremendous hurdle in their journey to the atmosphere.

The students are excited about that prospect. Some, like Jones, also feel somewhat relieved.

"It's going to be awesome," Jones said, "To actually press that button see it go up there and do what it's supposed to do."

Click here to follow the students' projects.

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