CT college students helping NASA stream eclipse

Marcus Solis Image
Friday, August 18, 2017

BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut (WABC) -- Forget having eclipse glasses ready, it is about serious science at the University of Bridgeport. A team of engineering students and faculty are putting the finishing touches on equipment that will help NASA photograph Monday's total eclipse of the sun.

"It's going to go up to 80 thousand feet, and maybe it can go up to 100 thousand feet," said student Maheshwara Kumar Rakkappan.

With help from the Discovery Museum, the group launched payloads attached to weather balloons. The University of Bridgeport is part of NASA's space grant program. In all, 55 teams will be stationed along the path of totality. The Connecticut group will be in Paducah, Kentucky. Besides the cameras, there will be data collection for environmental experiments.

"It is going to be as if the sun sets three times faster that day, and because of that, we're going to have temperature differences coming up from the ground," says Shiva Sundaram.

RELATED: Countdown to the Solar Eclipse

NASA provided all the material for the payload, but it was up to the team to make some important modifications. Because of wind, the structure will twist - the students did not want the structure to twist, so if it is square, it will not twist as much.

As if it wasn't impressive enough, the team includes three high school students from the Fairchild Wheeler School.

"A lot of people see the end results of a project, but we got to work through the entire thing," adds high school student Ryan Dang.

For all students, it will be an exciting change from learning theory and lab work.

"But doing the real thing and working on a world class research project with NASA is an unparalleled experience," say Tarek Sobh.

After the eclipse, a blade will slice the strings and the payload will parachute back to Earth - ending an out-of-this-world experience.