Overview of the content

This lesson gives an overview of the engineering track, including its many system components and related software.
We will introduce aspectrs of planning a field campaign. Although you will learn more about this topics as we go along, this lesson will offer an introduction to the scheduling and materials you will need for your ballooning mission.
We will also explore the importance of teamwork; the varioius roles each person may play; and the importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access throughout every step of our missions (and beyond).

Learning objectives

After completting this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the main goals and system components of the NEBP engineering track
  • Understand how to build a strong team
  • Understand the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility


  • How to develop a sample schedule for the days leading up to launch day as well as a launch day schedule.
  • How to identify the individual roles involved in a field campain.

NEBP Engineering Track

The presentation below highlights the technical engineering systems used to safely and successfully capture real-time video and data from a high-altitude weather balloon during the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse and the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse.  The engineering POD leads and their students have been carefully designing, documenting and testing the systems that will be distributed to the participating forty engineering teams. [The slide below is included in the presentation]

Overview of engineering components

System components include

  • an Iridium tracking system,
  • a cutdown system,
  • a tracking ground station,
  • a streaming video system,
  • a dual camera system providing 360 degree views,
  • a helium vent valve system for latex balloons,
  • zero pressure balloons,
  • temperature sensors,
  • pressure sensors and
  • precision GPS sensors.

Software to support the system components include

  • a real time tracking website, and
  • tracking ground station code, dual camera and streaming code, along with the embedded code.

Participating teams will learn the systems and have an opportunity to create their own payload.

View the presentation: 

Overview of all the hardware, software and systems used by the engineering track [28 slides]

  • You can also download the presentation as Powerpoint slides from this site

Tips for planning a mission


  • We build redundancy into our flight system and packing plan.
  • Know the system well enough to solve a problem quickly.
  • We cannot anticipate everything—know the system.
  • Be well trained.


  • Learn something new every flight.
  • Teach a teammate something new every flight.
  • Communicate clearly & listen respectfully.
  • Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Building a strong team

~Team exercise by Dr. Jani Pallis, University of Bridgeport

As you may know, going to Mars is a now a “career opportunity” and NASA also will send the next man and first woman to the Moon in the year 2025/2026 timeframe.

Please read excerpts from this article about “conscientiousness” and consider the following:

  1. Discuss how “conscientiousness” in this article relates to your personal participation on the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEBP).
  2. Develop a plan to improve your own “conscientiousness” over the course of the NEBP project. (If you are maintaining an “NEBP Project Notebook” include this plan in your notebook and track your progress.)

Conscientiousness, defined as "wishing to do what is right, especially to do one's work or duty well and thoroughly," has emerged as the key trait requirement for astronauts that will live and work on the surface of Mars millions of miles from Earth, according to a new study.

The astronauts selected for the first human mission to Mars will need to have more than "the right stuff." People on this very long mission will need to possess an eagerness for doing the right thing, too. This trait (conscientiousness) was identified as more important than honesty, humility, emotionality, extroversion, openness and agreeableness.

"Conscientiousness, an individual personality trait, can be thought of as a pooled team-resource," said the study's author. "The more conscientiousness a team is, the better they will likely be at accomplishing tasks."

Conversely, traits like "social loafing," or the habit of a team member putting in less effort than when they work solo, are undesirable in a potential Marstronaut. Traits that seem counterproductive and negative behaviors are likely to cause more trouble and disruptions in a team environment. The researchers consider these traits and behavior "non-negotiable" for long-duration spaceflight crews.

A careful focus on crew selection, emphasizing effective communication and very detailed work and planning processes, could help avoid any negative factors. "Anyone who has worked on a team knows conflict amongst team members can harm team performance and make for a negative experience. When people argue about how to get things done, or get into personal disagreements, there is less time and energy left for completing tasks," the author said. "What's interesting is that there are different types of conflict, and so long as interpersonal issues and arguments about how to go about accomplishing tasks are avoided, differences in views and opinions might actually improve team performance likely because this allows for the team to benefit from each member's knowledge and perspective."

  1. Renaud, Jeff. “ ‘Conscientiousness’ key to team success during space missions” Western News, November 18, 2020, https://news.westernu.ca/2020/11/getting-along-in-space/

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility

"If we want to ensure our workforce reflects the diversity of the public we serve, we need individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, skills, and abilities that can bring unique perspectives, and life experiences, to tackle highly complex challenges to achieve NASA’s mission."
~NASA, 2015: Promising Practices for Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Inclusion

You may have heard the terms or acronomys of DEI or DEIA. What does this mean, and why is it important?

Below is a quote from an unknown author:

  • Accessibility is being able to get into the building. 
  • Diversity is getting invited to the table.
  • Inclusion is having a voice at the table.
  • Belonging is having your voice heard at the table!

To this, we would add an explanation of equity (in contrast to equality): 

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities, whereasEquity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.  [Source: The George Washington University School of Public Health] These resources and opportunities might be different for each person involved.

Diversity, inclusion, and accessibilty are vital to ensure a safe and supportive environment for all NEBP team members.

The type of fieldwork that is part of NEBP can present unique challenges for DEIA, including:

  • Long hours
  • High stress environment, and
  • Physically challenging work, among others

Clear policies and expectations are important. Begin thinking now and how we can work around these challenges to achieve a supportive and inclusive environment for all NEBP participants?

Extended learning

Implicit bias is an automatic reaction we have towards other people. These attitudes and stereotypes can negatively impact our understanding, actions, and decision-making. The idea that we can hold prejudices we don’t want or believe was quite radical when it was first introduced, and the fact that people may discriminate unintentionally continues to have implications for understanding disparities in so many aspects of society, including but not limited to health care, policing, and education, as well as organizational practices like hiring and promotion.

Project Implicit logoProject Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaborative of researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition—attitudes and beliefs that are largely outside of our conscious awareness and control.

The organization offers a number of free, online Implicit Association Tests (IAT) that advance your own self-understanding of the attitude or stereotype of topics including race, gender, sexuality, age and weight, among others. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about.

We recommending taking the online tests in private. You may choose to report your results anonymously to the research team or simply view them privately. You do not need to share your results with your NEBP or classmates. You may be surprised at what you find.

Visit Project Implicit, then click TAKE A TEST. You may choose from several tests. Because we are a STEM project, we recommend, in particular, that you take the Gender-Science IAT

The IAT site is designed for adults, aged 18 or older.


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