A long distance call to space: UAH students help kids communicate with space center

Members of the UAH Space Hardware Club and Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program helped area kids make a “call” to the ISS. (Jim Steele/UAH)

How special would it be for a kid to actually be able to place a “call” to the International Space Station? Ask some area students at New Hope Elementary, Sparkman Middle and Mountain Gap Middle schools, because — thanks to UAH’s Space Hardware Club and the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program — they were given that chance.

One unique opportunity sparks another

Students from New Hope Elementary, Sparkman Middle and Mountain Gap Middle schools were able to make contact with the International Space Station this week. (NASA.gov)

Eight area sixth and eighth graders placed the long-distance call to lower Earth orbit when they dialed up the International Space Station via ham radio on April 7 for a live interview with astronauts aboard the ISS.

The SHC team took on the project after a proposal was submitted to ARISS by Amber Porteous, a junior in aerospace engineering at UAH. Porteous served as the SHC’s outreach manager last year and says she developed a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.

“We luckily got the contact. In May of 2021, we heard from the ARISS organization that we were one of nine organizations that had been accepted for a contact in the spring of 2022.”

Amber Porteous, UAH engineering student

The students who will speak to the astronauts were selected by the SHC/ARISS team after a blind question submission process. Students were asked to submit interview questions for the astronauts aboard the ISS and those questions determined which students were chosen.

Once the team narrowed the submissions to around six or eight questions, a poll was created for SHC members to vote on which questions they liked the best.

Some dedicated UAH students helped make the call possible

UAH students hailing from seven different states came together make the call to space possible. (Michael Seale/Hville Blast)

The significance of the opportunity to take on this project was not lost on the SHC/ARISS team from UAH.

“During our educational visits to the schools, the UAH SHC ARISS team was able to teach approximately 800 students about STEM topics such as rocketry, high altitude ballooning, ham radio and the history of the ISS. In addition to this, the ARISS contact event will be publicly streamed and we hope to reach even more students beyond Huntsville and Madison County.”

Rebekah Clark, UAH Space Hardware club outreach manager

ARISS SHC members are:

  • Sam Morrison, Ham Radio Team Lead, senior, physics, Grant, Ala.
  • Ocean Bowling, Contact Team Lead, freshman, aerospace engineering, Louisville, Ky.
  • Areeb Mohammed, Education/Contact Team, junior, computer science, Brentwood, Tenn.
  • Megan Jordan, Education Team, junior, aerospace engineering, Mobile, Ala.
  • Alexandra Federigo, Contact Team, senior, mathematical science, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Spencer Christian, Education Team Lead, junior, aerospace engineering, Nixa, Mo.
  • Victoria Tarpley, Education/Contact Team, junior, mechanical engineering, Roxana, Ill.
  • Tristan Carter, Education/Contact Team, junior, mechanical engineering, Haleyville, Ala.
  • Michaela Tarpley, Education/Contact Team, junior, aerospace engineering, Roxana, Ill.
  • Joseph Hayes, Education Team, senior, aerospace engineering, Helena, Ala.
  • Aiden Price, Education Team, sophomore, mechanical engineering, El Dorado, Ark.
  • Taylor Borden, Education Team, sophomore, aerospace engineering, Lawrenceburg, Tenn.
  • Shivani Patel, UAH Rocketry Senior Design Team, senior, aerospace engineering, Lebanon, Tenn.

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Michael Seale
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