Discovering an awesome Personal Project on a school visit in Melbourne


Best holiday snap? Student sends family into space

Being an IB School Visiting Team Leader I get to visit many IB schools from all over, this week I was lucky enough to visit Mount Scopus Memorial College in Melbourne and they are doing some great things with the IB MYP.  

Of all the things that they are doing well there are two in particular that I want to highlight;

  1. They celebrate their Personal Project Exhibition at the same time as their Parent Teacher conferences. So time poor parents can visit the school and ‘kill two birds with one stone’ and so that while parents are waiting for their parent teacher interviews they can view some great personal projects and the students can present their work to their parents and also chat with their supervisors at the same time!
  2. One of their students chose to “View the curvature of the planet Earth” by use of a homemade helium balloon, digital cameras and anti fogging equipment to take photos of the earth from 30,000 metres altitude with permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Best holiday snap? Student sends family into space

Bridie Smith
Date May 15, 2012

BEFORE launching his family into space last month, 15-year-old Michael Gruber wanted to be sure his spacecraft was fit for the job.

Lacking access to NASA launch facilities, Michael tested the $750 home-made vessel in his backyard in East St Kilda. Then, with the all-clear from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, he achieved lift-off from Mildura airport, sending his creation to just shy of 100,000 feet – or about 30,000 metres.

Rather than travelling as passengers, the Gruber family – parents Danny and Debbie, Michael and brother Liam – were represented by a 2010 family photograph.

Gruber.  Michael Gruber launched a high altitude space balloon and took a picture of his family from there.  The Age. Photo: Angela Wylie. May 14 2012.
Michael Gruber with his space balloon. Photo: Angela Wylie

The holiday photo was snapped – complete with specks of ice – by one of the two on-board cameras on the edge of the stratosphere with the Earth’s curve captured in the background, when temperatures would have been as low as minus 61 degrees.

The virtual trip was part of a year-long project Michael completed as part of his International Baccalaureate studies at Mount Scopus College.

Building the helium-fuelled space balloon involved sourcing materials from camping and hardware stores and online auction sites. ”Basically we got an Esky and inside that we had the two cameras and two global positioning systems but it had to be protected from the cold with anti-fog spray and warmers,” he said.

Despite perfect conditions for the launch on April 22 (which was watched by staff of the Bureau of Meteorology) Michael and his father were left guessing where the landing site was when both GPS systems failed to monitor the trip – which saw the balloon climb to 97,000 feet in 45 minutes before popping due to the pressure and parachuting back to Earth in no more than 90 minutes.

”We ended up driving home from Mildura without it and my Dad and I were just so sad about it. We thought we’d lost it,” Michael said.

But for reasons still unknown the GPS kicked in later that night and the pair tracked the co-ordinates to a farm two hours south of the launch site. As luck would have it, the owners could be tracked down through a local real estate agent.

”The agent called us up and said ‘I’ve got a mission for you’,” said Gale Menzies, who with her husband runs the 5000-acre property south-east of Mildura. ”He’s calling us Apollo now.”

The space balloon had indeed landed in their canola paddock which had just been planted, so it was easy for Mr Menzies to spot. ”We were just as excited as them about it, we felt like a part of their project in the end,” Mrs Menzies said. ”We live in Kooloonong, we don’t get a lot of passing traffic. Not a lot happens out here except we are surrounded by grain farms and sheep. It was nice to have something out of the ordinary.”

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About Pak Liam

Living, teaching and traveling in Asia.
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One Response to Discovering an awesome Personal Project on a school visit in Melbourne

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