High Schooler Returns to Her Elementary Alma Mater to Lead Space Station Contact
Sixteen-year-old Rebecca “Becca” Rubsamen, KJ6TWM, recently returned to her elementary school alma mater to help youngsters there speak via Amateur Radio with astronaut Mike Hopkins, KF5LJG, at the helm of NA1SS aboard the International Space Station. The November 13 event at Rancho Romero Elementary School in Alamo, California, was sponsored by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program.
“Becca approached Rancho Romero Elementary School, her alma mater, with the idea to do an ARISS contact there,” her dad, Reid Rubsamen, N6APC, told ARRL. “She drafted the application, helped develop the curriculum, and convinced astronaut James Van Hoften to come to Science Night to help promote the contact. Becca and I were very excited about the whole thing!”
Becca assembled the Elecraft K3 and 2 meter transverter she used for the ARISS contact from a kit. “I built the antennas in my backyard,” she explained on her website, which includes audio of the contact. “It took a flat bed truck and a fork lift to put them on the roof at Rancho!”
During the approximately 8 minute contact, the youngsters at the school posed a wide array of questions to Hopkins, who, responding to one student’s query, explained that the ISS orbits Earth 16 times a day, making it hard to keep track of time. “We have a great group on the ground that helps up keep track of time and lets us know when it’s time to go to bed,” he said.
Hopkins told the students that the crew members are “the guinea pigs” for some of the science experiments in space that are aimed at determining how humans fare in the spacecraft’s microgravity environment, which, he pointed out, takes a toll on muscles and bones. “We exercise about two hours a day to try to counteract that bone loss,” he said. But, he added, "You’re never going to forget what it’s like to float.”
Becca’s is a nearly all-ham family. Her mother, Amy, is KJ6WMF, and her 13-year-old brother Mike is KJ6WMG. Only her 7-year-old brother is not yet licensed. According to her dad, Becca believes the CubeSats may be “the next big thing” to promote ham radio and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education. “She is going to install a permanent UHF/VHF ground station at Rancho Romero to help this happen,” he told the League.
As for the future, her dad said Becca — a sophomore at Bentley School in Lafayette, California — sees a career in health care or technology. “Maybe she’ll do both,” he added.
Tim Bosma, W6MU, served as the ARISS mentor for the contact. He told the Contra Costa Times newspaper that Becca was among the youngest people to act as a lead operator” for a school contact. “It’s very impressive,” he said, adding that it was something he had not seen in his 30 years as a mentor for the program. He is working with Becca as they plan the installation of a VHF/UHF ground station at Rancho Romero to work Amateur Radio satellites.