August 27, 2014 had finally arrived and students at Dorothy Grant Elementary School had the amazing opportunity to use an amateur radio to talk to German Astronaut Alexander Gerst while he orbited hundreds of miles above the Earth aboard the International Space Station. Once contact was established, students took turns asking questions during the brief Q&A session inside the multipurpose room at the school.
Planning for this event began nearly one year ago with the writing of a proposal that was accessed from the ARRL website. The proposal asked questions about why you would want to participate in this event and how it would enhance programs already being taught at your school? We also had to describe how we would use the ARISS radio contact to support STEM development in our school as well as many other questions. Then in December 2013, we received the news that our school was accepted into the ARISS program and that Charlie Sufana, AJ9N, would be our ARISS Technical Mentor. Charlie is experienced in satellite contacts and provided us the guidance and equipment we needed to make our contact a success.
Now the planning really began. Our school ARISS committee began meeting to identify and delegate responsibilites. We had to iron out details of the event as much as possible before the end of the school year, because we were anticipating the contact to happen in August of 2014, just one month into the next school year. We divided into groups to take care of things like curriculum design for all grade levels, technology, event flyer, program and invitation design, question asking contest among students, T-Shirt design, community liason, and decorations both inside the multipurpose room and on the campus in general. There was a lot to do!
By the end of the school year, May 2014, we had worked out many of the details in preparation for our ARISS event, but our official date was still unknown. Charlie assured us this was normal. He said NASA can not be any more definite with dates because everything depends on the mission at hand. By April 2014 we were informed of "possible" weeks that the event could happen. Our week was confirmed by the second week of August 2014, but then we had to prioritize the days and times within that week. This information was confirmed only the week before our contact.
We wanted to do something at our school to commemorate this rare event, so we decided to have a mural painted of the solar system with Earth and the ISS, with the Expedition 40 Logo, in the forfront. After making a few phone calls and asking a lot of questions, we decided to use a waterbased concrete stain to create our mural. All the stains and protective coatings were donated to our school by Carlos Casanola, President of Classic Coating Systems of Corona. A student's parent, Andrew Shampine, who is a local artist, offered to design and paint the mural for free. After a few visits and a lot of hard work, Andrew and his friends and family completed his design that is located at the entrance to our multipurpose room. It is such an amazing work of art! Thank you so much to everyone who donated their time and materials to make this happen!
The day of the event was very exciting! We weren't really nervous because there was nothing left to do. Just let things happen.