A Glimpse From 82,000 Feet — Kids and a Weather Balloon!

Originally published at www.quest.com — 2 Nov 2015

Finding Your Passion In Life

One of my main passions in life is feeding the mind of my son. As a father, I have been able to rediscover a sense of wonder in learning new things. The opportunity to see the world again through your child’s eyes is truly wonderful; I know many of you reading this would agree.

For the past few years, we have been involved with a group of families that share a common interest in STEM-based activities for their kids. At first, I was a participant in the group and over the years was lucky to become the co-leader. It goes without saying; this is a rewarding experience for me. It can be a time-consuming endeavor, but I fortunately work for a company that places a high value on work/life balance.

Planning Our Project

We have bi-weekly meetings to cover topics with the kids that range from soldering to circuitry, robotics to app development, and even movie making to costume design. Earlier this year, my friend and the other co-leader of the group, Shawn, had the great idea to build a high altitude balloon (HAB) (also referred to as a weather balloon) with the group.

The kids met for a few weeks to plan the event. They needed to decide and build a number of Arduino-based sensors that would go up with the balloon. A cargo area had to be configured to hold all pieces of the hardware we were sending up, which also included a GoPro camera. And, they needed to work with the mentors to build a radar deflector that fit FAA safety guidelines for the launch.

We planned the launch day based on output from weather data on wind patterns and estimated travel path and distance. The information we had read stated that chances of recovery for your equipment may be as low as 50%, and we definitely wanted not only the data back, but also our GoPro!

Launch Day!

Launch day came and excitement was palpable; though I think the parents and mentors were just as excited as the kids involved! Honestly, wouldn’t you be? We were attempting something incredible, something I remember only hearing about scientists and maybe even NASA doing when I was growing up! As we went through final assembly, equipment check, and filled the balloon with helium, everyone involved was smiling ear to ear. The kids got to do a final countdown as we were about to release.

Launch time came and we sent off our hard work, with our fingers crossed!


Our stats from the launch are as follows:
Launch 8:26 AM PST
Land 10:34 AM PST
Recovered 10:40 AM PST

Max elevation 81,880 ft.
Ascent rate 13.9 ft./sec (98 minutes)
Descent rate 43.8 ft./sec (30.5 minutes)

Total distance
60.1 km / 37.34 miles

This was accomplished by a group of young minds ranging from 8 to 13 years of age, assisted by mentors. I consider myself lucky to be involved with this group. I think this is a memory they’ll have for their lifetimes; I know I will.

What Is Your Passion In Life?

The #ExpectMore campaign Quest is currently running to promote the use of its end-to-end solutions to enable work/life balance for our customers is truly something that they themselves believe and practice. Just check out the interesting things I am able to do working for Dell. I’d love to hear about your experiences with STEM, with sports, or with other activities you enjoy and promote with your kids.

My Son’s First Hackathon

This past weekend, my son attended his first ‘hackathon’. When Dawn found out about it we signed him up pretty quick to ensure it wouldn’t fill up. He wasn’t sure what to think when we went asked him if he was interested, but as we talked about what he would be doing (and that he would be on the computer for 6+ hours) he was completely sold on the idea.

We have a local startup incubator and coder community that has been doing an amazing job putting together events and classes geared towards youth. The main community for these have been through a group of individuals associated with PeopleSpace.us. If you have kids interested in coding and technology in the Orange County area, I highly recommend connecting with them.

Ready to learn

The Hack.KID.Thon began at 12:30 on Saturday, March 15th. We arrived a little early so he could setup and see which of his friends would be there. By the time the event started, more than 30 boys and girls were there, ready to hack.

To begin, the mentors taught the kids some basic HTML & CSS, using Twitter Bootstrap themes as examples.

Workstations were setup for teams of kids to work together in groups of 4 or 5. This allowed them to assist one another.


Before the teams separated to code for the day’s competition, the mentors asked for a number of ideas for the seven different websites they would be working on. It was fun to listen to listen to what they could come up with; from Minecraft to The Hobbit, from Video Games to Personal Electronics, the kids were full of good ideas.

Once all the ideas were decided, they split into teams and chose one of the topics to develop a site for. Ian’s team got video games; right up his alley.

They each were assigned a section of the bootstrap site to work on and would combine the code back together on the team leader’s machine when complete. Ian got the ‘team’ section of their site where he had to create personal About Me areas for each person on the team. I enjoyed watching all the kids interact with one another. It was a great introduction to group development work.

Hard at work with his section of the site.

Once the teams had completed their sites, they had to FTP it to server and be ready to present in front of the other coders, mentors, and judge.

Presenting their ‘All About Video Games’ site to everyone.

With help from others in the group, each of the presenters did a fantastic job talking about the different features of their site.

Each team did a fantastic job presenting and the entire group had a blast seeing what one another did. The sites they put together had some really fun features, one of my favorites was a site for The Avengers that had a ‘Happy Customers’ section where an older women praised them for helping her get her cat out of the tree! So creative.

Once the teams had all finished their presentations the judge went off to tally up points. He came back and gave each team some positive feedback on what they accomplished and let them know the points assigned. Ian’s team got 2nd place out of seven teams!

Group photo. Check out all the intelligent coders.

Ian had a blast and I think he is going to be re-doing his own website soon with the skills he learned at the Hack.KID.Thon. I’m extremely grateful to all the mentors involved from PeopleSpace.us — they did a great job and we’re looking forward to future events they host.

Originally published at life.freedain.com. March 21, 2014