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Launch puts Rochester P-TECH students on mission in space

Seven students involved in the IBM-sponsored Endurance program and other students in P-TECH 535's information technology pathway watched the broadcasted launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which carries a satellite the seven students will monitor and send code up to for the next two years.

P-Teach Rocket Launch
Students in the P-TECH 535 program work to create code for a CubeSat that is now orbiting the earth after hitching a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — The mission has just begun for a group of P-TECH 535 students.

The students, part of the information technology pathway at P-TECH 535, gathered before class at Rochester Community and Technical College on May 25, 2022, to watch the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket that is carrying a small satellite the students will monitor and work with over the next two years.

Launched on a Falcon 9 rocket, built and operated by SpaceX, from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the rocket contains 59 small satellites, one of which will be monitored by these P-TECH students.

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The program, called Endurance, allows the students to monitor and work on the CubeSat satellite as part of a program sponsored by IBM. Rochester’s P-TECH students were one of five groups of students internationally to be selected to work on this program.

According to Earth Tieskotter, a ninth-grade student involved in the IT pathway at P-TECH 535, the students first heard about the Endurance program through P-TECH teacher Vince Wagner. Seven students from the IT track volunteered to work on the Endurance program and collaborated to write their application.

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“We wrote that together and that was pretty cool,” Tieskotter said. “Then we actually got admitted into it, which is crazy because there’s five of us in the whole world and only two are in the US.”

P-Teach Rocket Launch
A student at the P-TECH course initializes a programable control module before applying code and other functions as part of a larger project of working with a CubeSat that was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin

Tieskotter, who wants to be an astronaut one day, said they hope to get experience with coding and research from their experience working on the Endurance project.

“We're gonna send code up into the satellite, the CubeSat, and it's going to do research up there and even take photos of planets and stuff like that,” Tierskotter said.

Since getting selected for the Endurance program, Wagner said the group has been working on becoming familiar with the components of the CubeSat satellite before they start working on their first project: To write java code that will track the satellite’s location in its orbit.

“It brings real life to learning,” Wagner said. “It's really gonna motivate, I think, their code writing. It’s gonna motivate their math. That's really what education should be about.”

According to Wagner, the satellite could stay in orbit from two to 10 years, and the seven students involved in the Endurance program committed to staying involved in monitoring and working on the satellite for two years.

P-Teach Rocket Launch
Two students in the P-TECH 535 program work to build code before watching a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch with the satellite they will monitor and work with on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin

Leah Baethke, a literacy teacher for P-TECH 535, said her goal is to see P-TECH students develop the skills they will need to be successful in their careers, whether those are content-based skills or other skills like professionalism and teamwork.

“We could potentially have kids graduating high school at 18 with their LPN diploma or associate’s degree,” Baethke said. “They’re going to be ready to go into a really solid, good paying job, and that is going to open up opportunities for these kids that are just unbelievable."

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Bella Carpentier is a journalism and political science student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN-TC). She is currently the managing editor of the student-run paper at UMN-TC, the Minnesota Daily. While reporting for the Minnesota Daily, she covered student activism and issues affecting the university's student body. Working for the Post Bulletin, Bella hopes to build community connections and advance her reporting skills. Readers can reach Bella at bcarpentier@postbulletin.com.
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