Sky is definitely not limit for Milton Peters College

SOUTH REWARD–Students and instructors of Milton Peters College (MPC) conducted a successful unmanned science and technology payload release of a helium balloon in December last year.

The payload consisted of different atmospheric sensors and microcontrollers to measure the atmospheric conditions around the balloon’s trajectory and to trigger at the required altitude set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Also included in the payload were GoPro cameras with wireless devices communicating with a base station to generate live video-streaming of the project’s trajectory. See for the edited video.

To the school’s knowledge, this type of science/technology project has never been conducted before in the Caribbean. “So it is with great pride and satisfaction the students and instructors of MPC inform you that we have reached a milestone never achieved before on this science and technology platform by a country in the Caribbean,” according to a press release from the school on Friday.

“We have demonstrated courage, perseverance and creativity to complete this heroic task initiated and coordinated by our own instructor Marcus Nicolas known as ‘Mr. Nic.’ We have two sets of objectives in this project: Student development and scientific research. First of all we had to learn to apply critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving before we could start paving the foundation of this project.”

In terms of specific project objectives, the school aimed to reach 40 kilometres, record the curvature of the earth and view the black void of space. However, as this type of project has never been conducted in the Caribbean, aviation authorities were very stringent. From the outset they understood the implication of an international impact if an aerial tragedy occurred during the course of the research/exploration project.

In addition to the requirements of the aviation authorities with regard to a calculated cut-off pressure altitude, the group of students and teachers had to take other measures into consideration – more than any other territories had to do before.

As they were convinced that the sky is not the limit, the students persisted until the end, complying with all the requirements placed in front of them. For the school, the bigger the challenge is the greater the satisfaction is and this is proof of the students’ abilities to accomplish their objectives.

Information technology (IT) teacher Nicolas said, “We want our students to know that, as far as achievement goes, nothing is impossible as long as you put your mind to it and are willing to. Our instructor always said to us if you want to see change, you must bring about change. That is actually what we have done.

“Consider this, in years, even centuries to come, if this earth still exists, St. Maarten will always be known as the first country in the Caribbean to make this happen. We want to encourage other schools, including those on different islands, to embark on such projects, because it really changes students’ perspective and gives them a great experience. We did have some stressful moments, but the end result is unique and it brings pride and satisfaction.”

The school thanked several corporate funding organisations and Port St. Maarten, specifically Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo and Alexander Gumbs. “From the first moment the project was presented to them, they became excited of the project; they didn’t hesitate to approve the financing,” stated the school.

Students and school management also thanked Claret Conner, who was also present during the presentation.

Students said coordinator Mr. Nic had not wanted them to choose an easy path by just buying a launch package, which can be purchased online. He wanted students to live through the experience of the 21st century requirements the global community requires from students to become successful in the future and become future leaders.

“We know now that St. Maarteners are trendsetters and have exceptional qualities and now we dare to make a leaping step into our future. For us that got this first-time experience. There is no way back, only forward with greatness,” added Nicolas.

This project would not have been possible without the support of the Meteorological Department, Sint Maarten Civil Aviation Authority, Air Traffic Services, the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Secretary-General, Coast Guard, Dutch Marines, the unconditional support of MPC’s management, especially Wim de Visser and Naomi Richardson, and the support of Engineer Mendoza, Ruud Rikers (Physics), Bienvenido Richardson (Physics TOA), Cindy York (Math) and the supporting team around Mr. Nic, Rithline Rogers-Steba and Ilse Karijosemito.

“An incredible measure of support was received from Reginald Richardson who worked tirelessly for the success of the live video streaming. Because of this video, no one can question the validity of the team’s claim,” the school stated.

During the preparation for the launch date, the school was graced by the presence of a Florida State University (FSU) professor and one of his meteorology doctorate students to collaborate with the school, as the students had only limited knowledge of science and technology, and no experience. The professor and his student were amazed by the extent of knowledge on the topic displayed by HAVO-VWO students and what the students had already accomplished.

“We are happy to confirm the partnership and academic relationship that has been strengthened between our school and FSU. This is a significant positive signal that benefits students in the future, not only at MPC, but from all other IB-level schools of the island,” stated MPC.

“This project trajectory started in December 2014 and ended exactly two years later. The length of period is due to the fact that we were venturing into unknown territory and, because of safety regulations, the aviation authorities took the school’s request very seriously and imposed the most stringent regulations. For them this project was unique as well. The project was a learning process for both entities.

“We encourage all high schools on the island and all around the Caribbean to embark on such-like projects, and add additional features to what we have accomplished – to stimulate the increase of knowledge and experience amongst high school students in this segment of science and technology. It will change the students’ perspective and the way students see education.

“It builds students’ confidence in problem-solving and they will realise that they can perform on a global stage. Our students realised that collaboration and networking are key pillars of success, that no one can claim an individual (isolated) success. Team success brings specialised satisfaction and stresses the importance of team players,” said Nicolas.

He told a United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) official during an informational session, “NASA should come to the Caribbean (to St. Maarten) to recruit gifted students in the field of science and technology. I can attest that our IB-level students are extremely intelligent, creative, research-oriented, problem-solvers and collaborative. By the way: these are the main 21st century skills students all over the globe need in order to succeed.”

The moment a helium balloon is released into the air with a payload it can cause serious safety risks for aircraft in the air and for property and people on land or in the open sea.

“You just can/should not launch such a project without the approval of your local Aviation Authority, Air Traffic Services and the Meteorological Department. These three entities are there to guarantee aerial safety and give advice on weather conditions. As a matter of fact, launching without approval of said authorities and non-compliance with their stringent regulations is a criminal offence and should not be taken lightly,” stated Nicolas.

The project

“The payload landed in the open waters of French St. Martin and could not be retrieved by the Coast Guard. We might have to write it off. However, all academic/intellectual stats data has been collected via our unique live-streaming connection and the radiosonde from the Meteorological Department that we had included with the payload as a backup (always good to have backups).

“In advance, our profoundest gratitude goes out to anyone who happens to retrieve the payload from the French waters and contact us. This would enable us to examine its condition after descent with the parachute. We would also be able to display the hardware in school as a matrix for future projects. Be assured of our unending gratitude for returning this device to us.

“You may contact us at the Milton Peters College, L.B. Scott Road, Dutch St. Maarten. The contact number is 721-548-3190,” stated the school officials.

Supporting students were Shakira Gijsbertha, Junairy Monzon, Che’vonne James, Alexander Arrindell, Rigel Ranis, Daniël Persaud, Clarissa Li, Steve Harnaraine.

Participating students were Romero Carrilho, Davina Clovis, Shirley Feng, Melissa He, Neosha Larmonie, Ian O’Conner, Vanessa Rosheuvel, Jelani Simmons.

Key departments/organisations that contributed were The TEATT Ministry, Sint Maarten Civil Aviation Authority, Air Traffic Services, Meteorological Department (including forecast), Coast Guard, Dutch Marines.

Sole corporate funder was Port St. Maarten.

Initiator/Coordinator of the project is MPC Instructor Marcus E. Nicolas, better known as Mr. Nic.

Source: The Daily Herald