Interns Set Their Sights High with Ball Intern Remote Sensing Team (BIRST) Payload Project

Interns Set Their Sights High with Ball Intern Remote Sensing Team (BIRST) Payload Project
By Sam Guerin 09/13/2021
This year marks the 13th anniversary of the Ball Intern Remote Sensing Team (BIRST) program, which offers an after-hours project that provides summer interns the opportunity to experience an accelerated payload development life cycle. The program is geared to promote direct project experience, networking opportunities and leadership experience. Within a ten-week period, interns design, build, test and finally launch their payloads in the air via a sport rocket built by United Launch Alliance interns or high-altitude balloon provided by Edge of Space Sciences. Sport rockets travel approximately 5,000 feet into the air, while high-altitude balloons travel upwards of 100,000 feet into the stratosphere. After a year hiatus, the payload project bounced back stronger than ever for an exciting new season.

Each BIRST payload team consists of eight to nine interns from a variety of departments working together to execute an engineering endeavor. The occasion provides students an opportunity to develop an untapped interest. It is not uncommon to see a human resource intern learn how to solder or a marketing intern code a Raspberry Pi. Current Ball Aerospace team members also volunteer their time and expertise as mentors to each individual team, a unique differentiator of BIRST.

“The program is special because it brings people of different backgrounds together to create and implement an idea that may not have been done otherwise,” said Tactical Solutions engineering, integration, test Intern and BIRST project manager for Team GORDON, Caleigh Rowan. “I’ve been able to apply my aerodynamics coursework to real-world atmospheric design challenges.”   

Meet the Teams

This year’s innovative intern creations included:

Balloon Payloads:Ball Aerospace BIRST balloon payload team photo

  • Team Strato-Arcade – Using advanced design, manufacturing and testing methods, the Strato-Arcade team put a modern spin on classic arcade games. Along with basic telemetry measurements, the team studied the random movements of a ping pong ball contained on-board using flight motion-tracking cameras.
  • Team GORDON – Team GORDON developed the Roundtrip Assembled Milkshake to the Stratosphere and Yonder (RAMSaY), a BalloonSat payload to shake, freeze and insulate a pre-assembled ice-cream mixture for consumption upon its return to the Earth. The milkshake was contained within a Ball Aluminum Cup and took advantage of the Stratosphere’s extremely low temperatures. 
  • Team STAR BIRST – Team STAR BIRST's payload was equipped with two omni-directional cameras, to record video and auditory footage and create a virtual reality (VR) simulation for the user sensation experience. To enhance this experience, STAR BIRST recorded temperature, humidity, pressure and altitude data to create a heads-up display within the VR simulation. 

Rocket Payloads:Ball Aerospace BIRST rocket payload team photo

  • Team SEEDz  – The Seeds Energetically Exiting Decent Vehiclez (SEEDz) team payload ejected flower seeds native to the Pueblo, CO region. As the seeds were dispersed in the air, the onboard camera and sensor suite collected data to be analyzed to determine the seeds statistical geographical drop-zones. 
  • Team Toastbusters – Team Toastbusters tested the age-old question: Will bread toast on a rocket? A multitude of sensors on the payload recorded altitude, acceleration, temperature, humidity and more for post-launch analysis.
  • Team Delicious Descent – Team Delicious Descent built a payload to turn basic ingredients into ice cream during the flight and descent of the payload. In addition, the payload collected environmental and telemetry data throughout the flight. 

Ball Aluminum Cups Transcends the Stratosphere

IBall Aluminum Cup on a high-altitude payload with the sun in the backgroundn 2019, Ball Corporation released the first-of-its-kind Ball Aluminum Cup, which is available at major retailers across all 50 states. The innovative product has the potential to advance sustainability and reduce plastic waste from the home to major entertainment stadiums. Team GORDON’s balloon payload wasted no time in using this new technology and made history when the first Ball Aluminum Cup launched into the stratosphere. By taking advantage of the stratosphere’s low temperatures, the payload was equipped with a 360-degree camera to capture footage of an assembled milkshake in space.  

“I feel fortunate to support the BIRST program as a mentor and help provide real-world experience to a fun, inclusive and highly motivated group of interns,” said Jannine Rouw, lead mentor for Balloon Payload, RAMSaY and system test engineer in the Space Vehicle Systems Engineering, Integration and Test group. “It's incredibly rewarding to witness the level of ownership our interns take on with their own flight designs and the relationships they build with their peers.”

Most recently, the endeavor along with Team Strato-Arcade and STAR BIRST, were featured on CBS Denver. View both the balloon and rocket launch payload projects via CBS’ coverage below. 
The BIRST Program is a unique differentiator of the Ball Summer Intern Program. For students of all backgrounds, the program presents an interactive concept-to-launch process, sparking creativity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. As the program transitioned back to in-person design, test and launch processes, the energy and ingenuity levels were sky-high. With such a strong return this year, the BIRST program is well-positioned to grow in subsequent summers.   

Watch the 2021 BIRST Payload Teams in Action:

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