Published On: Fri, Oct 19th, 2018

CenturyLink helps Florida students talk to astronaut on International Space Station

Q&A intended to further student interest in science, technology, engineering and math

Boca Raton, FL – Thanks in part to CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and its employee volunteers, students of the School District of Lee County, Florida, had a “close encounter” last week with an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS).

In a specially planned school event, 21 students with interests in science, technology engineering, and math (STEM) each asked a question of orbiting ISS astronaut Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor via amateur, or ham, radio. CenturyLink provided the antenna system for the radio, while members of the CenturyLink Ham Radio Club W0CTL and the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club W4LX spent countless hours building and testing the radio equipment and software.

The out-of-this-world Q&A can be viewed on the school district’s YouTube channel.

Because the ISS travels at approximately 17,000 mph, it was overhead and within range of the radio for only about 10 minutes. As a result, each student – ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade – asked their question quickly and then gave way to the student next in line. Equally aware of their limited time together, astronaut Auñón-Chancellor provided crisp, concise answers.

Planning for the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) event began about a year ago. Allen Park Elementary learned in January that it had been selected to be the first Lee County school to participate in ARISS and one of just 15 this session. In preparation, students began a “Year in Space” education program that included NASA’s “Train Like an Astronaut – Walk to the Moon” challenge, growing tomatoes from seeds flown in space, visiting the Kennedy Space Center to witness a rocket launch, and forming a STEM club to study rocketry, computer coding, and robotics.

“The students are amazing and have worked very hard toward this goal,” said fifth-grade science teacher Courtney Black. “Their enthusiasm and dedication toward STEM and space exploration leaves me with no doubt that someday they will be the on the other side of an ARISS contact.”

Brian Darley, a CenturyLink network technician and program chair for the Ft. Myers Amateur Radio Club W4LX, led the amateur radio efforts. “We’ve enjoyed every minute working with the students and seeing the excitement build for the ISS contact,” he said. “And we’re so proud to have provided the connection that made this memorable event possible.”

Key facts

  • Twenty-one students from the School District of Lee County, Florida, spoke with astronaut Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor on the International Space Station via amateur radio. Their conversation can be viewed here.
  • CenturyLink, one of the world’s leading communications and IT services companies, provided the antenna system for the radio.
  • Members of the CenturyLink Ham Radio Club W0CTL and the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club W4LX built and tested the radio equipment used by the students to connect with the ISS.

Additional resources

About the Author

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>