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CCATP #462 Brian Johnson on Inspiring Kids with Bottle Rockets and Science

Brian johnson and a bottle rocketThis week, Steve and I share hosting Chit Chat Across the Pond with retired electrical engineer, ham radio nerd, and remote control flier, Brian Johnson. Brian explains how he has taken his love of electronics and works to spread his enthusiasm to kids through volunteering at local schools.

The pinnacle of his experiences was when he got to help the kids at St. Bernard High School talk live using ham radio to astronauts aboard the Endeavor Space Shuttle. Lately he’s been teaching kids to build tiny ham radios and shoot compressed air and water bottle rockets and even learn the math behind why they work.

If you want to contact Brian, you can email him at:  ab6ui@aol.com
And you can find the Hughes Amateur Radio Club at https://mksummits.com/w6ha/

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Notes from our discussion with Brian:

How did I get involved with science and technology?

  • Always good at math/science
  • Got my first shortwave radio receiver for christmas at 12
  • Liked to build projects from Popular Electronics Magazine
  • One of my earliest projects was to build an Estess countdown timer.

Distant past: (background)  In 1994 I led the St. Bernard High School SAREX Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment contact team. This team was made up of members from the Hughes “Amateur Radio Club” and (HAC ARC) and TRW ARC. We had a horizon to horizon contact with the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

  • Astronaut Kevin Chilton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_P._Chilton wanted to talk to his alma mater
  • Was contacted by St Bernard’s to help with contact
  • Worked with the kids to come up with a list of good questions
  • Set up a ground station outside the school’s gym
  • Conducted a successful contact – 12 min of talk time

Recent Past: My friend Dr Kent Schwitkis (a teacher of astronomy and physics at the Compton Campus of El Camino College) Had recruited me to help with his students on several occasions.

  • He has created a “science club”…   Worked with the kids on how to identify different electrical components i.e resistors, caps, ICs and how to solder
  • Worked with Physics class to build a Radio. (Pixie radio: http://amzn.to/2fi69bU )
  • Again Worked with the kids on how to identify different electrical components i.e resistors, caps, ICs and how to solder
  • Then how to test and troubleshoot a circuit board
  • Science Academy
  • This consisted of middle school kids they would a couple of  days in each subject area learning different fields of science
  •  Kent, being the paid instructor, developed the class notes and I assisted him. We spent about 4 hours of class work on how find out the altitude of a 2 liter plastic bottle water rocket.
  • The outdoor lab consisted of launching the rockets and taking measurements using an astrolabe.
  • This did not go well since the students forgot to record the necessary data. We used this as a learning experience of what can happen in the real world.

Current:  I am currently working with the Hughes Amateur Radio Club (HAC ARC ) and students of Los Angeles Academy Middle School in their attempt to establish a QSO with the International Space Station.

  • The HAC ARC is teaming up with to support Darrell Warren and the students of Los Angeles Academy Middle School in their attempt to establish a QSO with the International Space Station.
  • Our club strives to live up to the spirit of amateur radio, serving the community on multiple levels. We feel honored to work with these young students, who are our future.
  • Our club consists of 44 members of varying backgrounds in science, engineering, RADAR, aviation, and amateur radio
  • In November members of the HAC ARC and I will be participating in the school’s Community Law Day. We intend to demonstrate amateur radio and its community service of volunteers. We will also work with students in the Los Angeles Academy Middle School Amateur Radio Club, the community service element of Ham Radio is an important aspect of the hobby. It is our hope that we can inspire this same sense of curiosity, volunteerism, and scientific wonder in students learning about the International Space Station. We hope, in some way, to light the magic spark in them.

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