(above) Graduation day for 2013 Project SMART. The students present posters of their research which are reviewed by the other students, the faculty, friends and families followed by a graduation ceremony.

(above) Measured infrared signal from downward-pointed photometer during 2016 balloon flight.

(above) Magnetometer boom concept developed by SMART students for a CubeSat to be flown in 2017.

(above) Electronic ciruit built by 2015 students Kent Cassidy and Dakotah Stirnweis with assistance from teacher Rich Levergood, Prof. Peter Bloser and student John Gadbois that gathered data from the gamma ray and energetic neutron prototype instrument flown on the 2015 balloon.

(above) Actual gamma ray and energetic neutron prototype instrument flown on the 2015 balloon including the student-build data collection electronics.

(above) Reconstruction of the cross-section of a flux rope forming the core of a Coronal Mass Ejection as observed by the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft. The analysis was performed by 2015 Bader and Schroeder.

(above) Dipolarization event studied by 2015 students Xie and Lara.

(above) Measured speed of a CME leaving the Sun using remote sensing data from the STEREO spacecraft. Analysis performed by 2014 students Hiraldo and Hall.

(above) Table of reconnection events found in CLUSTER data when spacecraft is within the cusp region. The research was performed by 2014 students Hubbard and Shindel.

(above) "Tusk" ion distributions are most common in heavier ions within the magnetosphere. They shoot upwards, in a thin band, as seen in the graph above. The project was performed by 2014 students Matos and Gadbois.

(above) Observed correlation between magnetic field intensity and solar wind flux seen by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1984. The correlation was revealed in work by 2014 students Payne and Spang.

(above) Comparison of observations and theory for IBEX measurements of helium atoms. The research was completed by 2014 students Pierre and Hu.

(above) Schematic of the Compton scattering process that is at the heart of the gamma ray detector.

(above) Variation of solar wind speed, density, magnetic field intensity and Alfven speed as a function of distance from the Sun.

(above) Students and teachers from the 2013 space physics program.

(above) We wish to thank the NASA MMS program for five years of support. Without additional funding, we could never offer this program.

(above) Helmhotlz coils built by SMART students for the purpose of neutralizing the Earth's magnetic field and calibrating sensitive magnetometers.

(above) Student Mahn working with teacher Rich Levergood learning to solder in the early stages of circuit board development.

(above) Photograph of the MMS Spin-Plane Double Probe. SMART students Gutemann and Olsen tested the antenna deployment motor in 2011 while SMART student Mahn performed vacuum chamber tests and calibrations of the assembled instrument in 2012.

(above) Tests of the balloon payload prior to launch. Photograph was taken prior to a preliminary drop test to verify payload design and release hardware.

(above) Prof. Eberhard Moebius working with 2 students in the SMART program in 2009.

Project SMART: Space Science
Student Information

The Project SMART experience within the space science module is a hands-on experience. The entire month-long experience is built upon three activities:

  1. There are physics classes at the advanced high school and undergraduate college level led by our experienced high school teachers to provide the background needed to perform the physics and understand core principles. These lectures are supplemented by a wide variety of fun experiments and demonstrations. Our teachers have decades of classroom experience and they don't want their summer to be the same experience as they or the students experience during the school year. This physics is FUN!
  2. There are hands-on research projects exploring advanced space physics concepts that are led by the university professors with topics drawn from their own active research projects. Studens work singly ordoubly within a research group formed by the professor, research staff, graduate and undergraduate students. We will typically run 4 to 6 separate research projects each year so that students can select from different opportunities and activities. This is real-world scientific research using our laboratories, computers, and real spacecraft data. This experience is supplemented with seminars in space physics concepts to help the students understand where their work fits into the "big picture".
  3. There is a joint project where the students work together to build the scientific payload for a high-altitude balloon. The payload evolves every year to become more sophisticated and more capable. Students will learn everything from core physics to microprocessor programming and circuit building.

Here we offer glimpses into the activities and accomplishments of past years. For those who wish to see the short videos created from our balloon flights, we file them with YouTube and have links here. We encourage interested students to visit the teacher pages as well for additional insights into the program.

The end of the month brings graduation day. Each student team presents the results of their research to the other students, the faculty, their friends and family who assemble for the day. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish! Here we present some of the posters that have been prepared by the students for graduation day. Posters are prepared using PowerPoint, but are offered here in jpeg form as these files are smaller.

2016 Research Projects: Seven students participated in the program this year with students coming from as far away as Germany and Greece. In collaboration with the Environmental Science module, we flew 2 balloons. The first was a tethered flight above a pond where cyanobacteria was in high concentration. Ongoing measurements just above the water's surface have shown that the bacteria gets into the air in concentrations that equal the water-borne concentrations. Prof. Haney wanted to see if the bacteria became truly air-borne above the pond, so a tethered balloon lifted his air sampler to 100 feet for a prolonged sample well above the pond. Then the same air sampler was flown on the untethered balloon to 100,000 feet to see if cyanobacteria can reach the stratosphere. Another part of the untethered flight was the ongoing development of a multi-channel photometer to record the spectrum of light coming off the Earth's surface and propagating through the atmosphere.

(left) The tethered balloon flying over a pond for study of airborne cyanobacteria.
(right) The view from 102,000 feet in July 2016 looking north along the Maine coast.

2015 Research Projects: Seventeen students participated in the program this year. They completed 8 research projects, built a balloon payload from scratch, constructed 6 new prototype instruments for flight and built several more to existing designs. These include a 5-channel spectrometer that recorded light intensity from the IR to the UV and in 3 bands in the visible range, a Sun sensor, and the interface for a gamma ray and energetic neurton detector designed by Prof. Peter Bloser that got it's first flight to the edge of space. Students built the data collection hardware for the gamma ray and energetic neutron detector. The payload also carried a Geiger counter built the year before. The balloon flew to 96,000 feet and inspite of a minor glitch on liftoff that resulted in an imbalanced payload the flight was a success.

(left) Occurrence rates for nose distribution of ions as seen by the RBSP spacecraft for different ion species. See Hollick and Pine 2015 poster for more details.
(right) The view from 96,000 feet in July 2015. Despite a mechanical failure on launch, the flight did succeed in getting excellent photographs of the Earth.

2014 Research Projects: This was a remarkable year. We had 12 students in the program and they completed 8 different research projects spanning a broad range of spacecraft and scientific problems. The balloon payload flew to 97,000 feet with 5 new and highly succesful scientific experiments in the payload with both video and still cameras. Three experiments were great improvements over past designs: two temperature sensors and a Geiger counter. Two experiments were entirely new: a Sun sensor and a UV/IR spectrometer. The jet stream was uncharacteristic in that it was flowing from south to north, so we were able to launch from the UNH campus and retrieve north of Lewiston-Auburn, Maine.

(left) Launch of the balloon payload in 2014 from Boulder Field on the UNH campus.
(right) The view from 27,000 feet in July 2014. Note the thin blue band that is our atmosphere and the black of space above.

2013 Research Projects: This was a banner year. We had 8 students in the program and they completed 5 different research projects. They also flew 2 balloon payloads to 85,000 feet with succesful scientific payloads and video cameras. We even managed to capture images of one balloon from the other while ascending.

(above) Spectrogram of EMIC waves studed in 2013 Project SMART. The source of these low-frequency magnetic waves in the magnetosphere are not well understood and are the subject of considerable research involving the RBSP spacecraft.

2012 Research Projects: This year the program was smaller than usual wth only 3 students participating. Despite this, we accomplished a complete program with 3 research projects and a successful balloon flight. This was the first year that we flew an onboard microcontroller resulting in successful measurements of cosmic radiation, atmospheric pressure and temperature in a flight that reached 105,000 feet.

(above) Three sequential images filmed at 30 frames/second showing the balloon bursting in flight. The balloon reached 105,000 feet.

2011 Research Projects: We had 9 students in the program in 2011 and we completed 5 research projects in addition to a balloon launch.

(left) Comparison of electron orbits as computed for spacecraft charging analysis.
(right) Early construction stage of 2010 balloon payload.

2010 Research Projects: We had 4 students in the program in 2010 and we completed 3 research projects in addition to a balloon launch.

To see an overview of the faculty who regularly participate in the Space Science component of Project SMART, go here....

Financial support for Project SMART is provided by the Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, the Dean of College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, NH Space Grant Consortium, NSF-NH EPSCoR Grant, NH Sea Grant program, and the UNH Nanogroup.