From MIT to the Great Beyond: Erin King, 17, Launches Acceptance Letter Tube into Space
2.8.12 | Let’s say your college acceptance letter arrived in a cardboard tube, along with a note from the university to “hack the tube.” What would do? Paint it? Turn it into a kaleidoscope? Create an aperture science handheld portal device?
It’s all been done, and you can view those and many other interesting tube projects at hackthetubes.mitadmissions.org.
Erin King, 17, of Columbus, Ga., took a unique approach: She sent her tube to the edge of outer space. See for yourself. Below, King explains how she did it.
I turned it into an Amateur Radio High-Altitude Ballooning project. I used two GPS-equipped ham radio transmitters (APRS) using the callsigns AK4JG-11 (me) and K4ETY-11 (my dad) to send out position packets from the Tube so I could track it on the ground. (The thing I’m soldering in the beginning is one of the trackers.) My dad and I made custom antennas for the radios for the flight. (You see one of them at the bottom of all the footage from the TubeCam.) The camera mounted to the Tube (“TubeCam”) for the ride was a GoPro Hero camera, taking 960p HD video. The balloon was an 800 gram weather balloon, filled with Helium.
We launched the payload around 1 pm from Lumpkin, GA on January 16, 2012. The entire flight from launch to landing lasted nearly 2 hours. Maximum altitude was approximately 91,000 feet. It landed just east of I-75 and south of Cordele, GA. Ironically, it decided to land in a small patch of trees surrounded by cotton fields. (We were aiming for the fields.) Luckily, it wasn’t very high up and we were able to recover everything safely. It was fun! (:
The background song is “Circuit” by Sonic Adventure Project, courtesy of BeatPick.com.
Chris Peterson, MIT’s admissions counselor for web communications, sent a note to the website Boing Boing explaining the background of the tube-hack challenge. “Lots of them are great,” he added, “but this one, from Erin King (MIT ‘16) in Georgia, is the best.”
Looking through videos and photos of other tube hacks, there’s no shortage of creativity (some students, understandably, used the tube in some celebratory way to commemorate early acceptance into MIT).
It makes me wonder: Could assignments like this replace the college application? Because it sure is a lot more fun.
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