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Shaftesbury science soaring to new heights

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The students at Shaftesbury High School are soaring to new heights with their science program, SHARP.

The Shaftesbury High Altitude Robotics Project is a lunch program where around 35 students have built a payload to rise into the atmosphere to conduct experiments.

"Students design, build, test, launch, and recover a payload equipped with electronic sensors and experiments from a high-altitude balloon capable of achieving altitudes in excess of 120,000 feet. We’ve reached 127,000, so that we can do astropheric testing and experiments," said Adrian Deakin, chemistry teacher and one of the supervisors/advisors to the SHARP team with physics teacher Robert Striemer.

Within the package there will be a magnetometer, a Geiger counter, a barometer, temperature sensors, a luminosity sensor, hydrogen peroxide, and multiple cameras to capture the action.

They were supposed to launch on Oct. 30, but had to cancel after not receiving flight clearance.
Alex Poersch, a Grade 12 student, has been a part of SHARP since Grade 10. He hopes to head to The University of Waterloo to study nanotechnology in fall 2014.

"It’s fun," Poersch said. "I could be spending my lunch hours in the cafeteria talking to my friends, but I can also be down here challenging myself intellectually, and learning a bunch of new skills and then you have all this stuff going on."

Poersch and Deakin agree that the most exciting part of this is not knowing what is going to happen on launch day.

"You have to plan, you have to prepare, but as soon as it goes up you have no idea what’s happening and you just get this rush," Poersch said. "Then when it works out."

As well as launching experiments into the sky, SHARP has created Winnipeg’s Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Telebridge Project. This is the only voice and video communication system in Canada that will communicate with the International Space Station.

"Our students will be able to facilitate contact with astronauts on the International Space Station from our school here at Shaftesbury," Deakin said. "So not only will Shaftesbury students be able to speak to them, we are offering this as a service provider to students all over the world."

For their work, the program has won numerous grants and awards from the province and even the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

SHARP is always looking for more partners for its projects. If you are interested, or just want to learn more, visit their website at http://shsballoonproject.pbworks.com.

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