BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Students at Baton Rouge Community College have their sights set on space. Thanks to a $180,000 grant from NASA, one class is preparing for an out-of-this-world experience.
A series of beeping sounds filled a BRCC science lab one recent Friday afternoon. What may sound annoying to an observer is music to the ears of students conducting the experiments.
"What's it's going to do is it's going to raise the pitch and increase the frequency," student Meagan Moore said as she dropped a sensor into a beaker of boiling water.
The program is called "Launching LA Community College Students into STEM" (LLCCSS) and is open to students from all majors. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
"The kinds of basic skills that we go through with this program are applicable across almost any career choice, particularly those in STEM, because we emphasize modern technology," said Dr. Gregory Guzik, director-elect of the Louisiana Space Consortium. "The first semester is in skill building, where the students learn basic electronics, programming, mechanical design, and project management. This next semester is generally in the construction of a balloon payload."
Guzik teaches physics at LSU, but works alongside Dr. Asoka Sekharan at BRCC through the Consortium. Over the course of two semesters, students learn how to build a weather balloon payload to launch 100,000 feet (19 miles) in the atmosphere. There at the edge of space the payload measures temperature, pressure and humidity.
"It seemed like a great opportunity that I'd be able to be working with NASA, because it would help me along my pathway to meteorology," BRCC student John Helffrich said.
Former program participants guide current students along the way, and the school year concludes with a trip to NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas. It's a unique opportunity for students to launch a career too, and administrators hope the program will be available after the initial two-year grant runs out.
"It's a very hands-on class. You get a lot of experience doing stuff you normally wouldn't get a chance to do," student Daniel Larouche said. "As long as we do well with this stuff, then we can have more people come in and do this in the future, so it feels good to be a part of that team that actually bring this to BRCC."
Similar programs are available at most Louisiana colleges and universities. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO