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KN6EQU Balloon Wins Cross-Country Educational Challenge Race


Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) partner ISS Above inventor Liam Kennedy, KN6EQU, of Pasadena, California, has been declared the winner of a mid-altitude cross-continent educational challenge balloon race. His balloon was one of four launched on June 1 from the west coast with the goal of reaching the Eastern Time Zone first. Coming in second was the balloon of Ted Tagami, KK6UUQ, from ARISS partner

It all began when educator Joanne Michael, KM6BWB — a science coach at the Wiseburn Unified School District in Los Angeles — challenged another ARISS partner group to a mid-altitude, cross-continent balloon race. Michael has led her students in several balloon launch attempts from the Los Angeles area each year.

Given the disruption caused to schools by the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael wanted to shake things up a bit and give students worldwide a unique distance-learning treat that could safely be accomplished during the pandemic. She challenged Tagami, and he accepted. On May 31, a fourth team joined in the competition: Steve Potter, K7HAK, and Trevor MacDuff of Washington.

Tagami launched his balloon from Oakland, California. ARISS partner ISS Above inventor Liam Kennedy, KN6EQU, got wind of the idea and also came on board, launching from Pasadena, California. Michael set her balloon aloft in Los Angeles, while Potter and MacDuff’s balloon lifted off from southern Washington.

ARISS,, and ISS Above are ISS National Lab Space Station Explorer (SSE) partners that work to inspire, engage, and educate students in science technology engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) topics and to pursue careers in those fields.

Students could still track each balloon’s location, altitude, and temperature, which are fed automatically via the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS). The call signs are KM6BWB-9, KK6UUQ-8, KN6EQU-2, and K7HAK-11.

“Educators and parents around the globe can excite at-home youth with this initiative,” ARISS said in announcing the challenge. 

For more information on the balloon launch, lesson plans, and the livestream video link visit the ARISS Mid-Altitude Balloon Race page.




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