Tag Archives: Jeff Tarr

Planning for @The_School’s next weather balloon launch with @jeffisfast & @benedickraikes! #STEM

We’re looking forward to The School‘s second annual High Altitude Weather Balloon Launch on April 18th with the Global Space Balloon Challenge. Thankfully, a brilliant parent and member of our community, Jeff Tarr (@jeffisfast) is willing to help us again this year to elevate our understanding and capabilities with this project.

I’m currently at a planning meeting with Jeff and The School’s 6th grade science teacher,  Ben Raikes (@benedickraikes), to work out the shopping list and duties for all involved. It takes a village (and a tank of helium)…

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.@jeffisfast @benedickraikes & @The_School’s 6th grade did the Global Space Balloon Challenge! #GSBchallenge

screenshot by Amy Eguchi

Jeff Tarr (@JeffIsFast) is an inventor/entrepreneur/maker/tinkerer/programmer with a (thankfully) vested interest in sharing his talents and ideas with teachers and students at The School at Columbia University. He approached Ben Raikes (@benedickraikes), 6th grade Science teacher, and me in early October about participating in the Global Space Balloon Challenge to launch a High Altitide Balloon (HAB).

The timing was awesome, as I’d seen a recent message from Laura Blankenship (@lblanken) in which she shared a video and blurb about her students’ participation in the challenge at The Baldwin School:

The Baldwin School partnered with Lancaster Country Day School for the launch of the space balloon and items from a kit Baldwin won in the spring. The kit had items like a GoPro camera, a GPS tracker and a flight computer to gather data like altitude, temperature, pressure and wind speed.

Jeff worked tirelessly (independently and collaboratively) to advocate for the project, organize a plan, propose a budget, program sensors, choose a launch point, and set up a GPS tracker to chart the path of the balloon! People could follow via The SPOT App on an iOS device or via the web using his link and a password!

Here’s a link to the Eagle Pro Weather Balloon Kit we purchased from High Altitude Sciencehttps://www.highaltitudescience.com/products/eagle-pro-near-space-kit

Other educators were equally excited and supportive of the project including Amy Eguchi who shared the map photo (at the top of this post) with a message explaining that the image “shows how it has travelled. You can see the gap which is when the ballon was above 60,000m. Pretty cool :)”

It was so rewarding to read Ben’s email to faculty which included two awesome still photos from the GoPro camera attached to the frame!

Dear Colleagues,
Yesterday we launched a helium balloon  from Black Rock. It went to 104,000 ft! We have video footage from a GoPro that was strapped onto the rig. Here are a few screen grabs until we can produce a little film..
Buzz I mean Ben
ps Those pieces are bits of the balloon that has just burst. And that’s our parachute… It landed in a back yard in Williamsburg MA.

I was kept in the loop throughout the process and, though I missed the actual balloon launch, I cheered from afar. Below are a couple of tweets I saw from the trip to Black Rock Forest on the day of the event:

Watch the awesome video Hilary Szanto created about the project here: http://thetube.theschool.columbia.edu/files/balloon2_25155.mp4


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Resources from the @Raspberry_Pi powered weather station demo by @astillman and @jeffisfast


Andrew Stillman and Jeff Tarr are parents in my school community. They are both techies and tinkerers and both deeply interested in helping to inspire students to program. Together, they planned an integrated Science activity for Ben Raikes‘s 6th grade students today. They reviewed conditional statements in Scratch (something our students have seen before), introduced the Raspberry Pi and showed how you could run Scratch on it, and then explained the Raspberry Pi-powered weather station they set up in the science lab attached to various temperature and barometric sensors. They showed how data was being collected from the Raspberry Pi and sent wirelessly to a Google Spreadsheet. The students then made a copy of this spreadsheet and were tasked with tweaking the Google Apps Script (a Javascript language) to run a variety of functions using the data.

Andrew and Jeff shared the following presentation with our students:

Note: Andrew and Jeff legitimately impressed the kids with an assortment of examples of their technical prowess. Here were two that the students particularly enjoyed:
Jeff shared a toilet he rigged with a Raspberry Pi, distance sensors, and motors to lift the lid for everyone and the seat for some. See his video below:

Andrew shared his interactive Christmas tree that allows anyone in the world to turn the lights on and off via an app living on a web page. The live video feed is here and a video explaining the project is below:

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