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On May 22, 2013, Anacapa School students had a chance to speak with NASA Astronaut and former Navy SEAL Christopher J. Cassidy via a live Amateur Radio link to the International Space Station (ISS) (Astronaut Chris Cassidy’s NASA Bio). The 10-minute Q&A session went off without a hitch at the hilltop campus of QAD, Inc. Video of the event was streamed live online on the school’s Web site.

The arrangement was made possible by Anacapa School’s participation in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Teaching From Space program, a cooperative venture between NASA, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) and other international space agencies, which coordinates scheduled radio contacts between astronauts aboard the ISS and schools. Support locally was provided by Amateur Radio operators Ken Owen and Calli Marquez from the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club.

As part of the preparations for this event, students in the Anacapa Near Space Exploration Club (ANSEC) passed the Federal Communication Commission’s Amateur Radio license exam.

“It’s a lot of work.  You need to know a lot about electronics and radio frequencies,” said ANSEC team member Sam Robertson.  ” There are a lot of laws involved in it because when you’re on the radio you need to be responsible so you aren’t, say, talking over a (broadcast) radio station or TV station.”

Each year, Anacapa students participate in the school’s Synthesis Unit, Anacapa’s premier tool for developing critical thinking skills. Each Unit provides students with unique opportunities to explore a specific topic in depth with expert speakers, field trips and hands-on experiences. This year, the Synthesis Unit topic is “Space: Where Are We Going?” As part of this Synthesis Unit, Anacapa hosted a three-day series of speakers in January who presented on a variety of space-related topics including Santa Barbara-area aerospace contractors, academic researchers and NASA Astronaut Rick Linnehan, who visited Anacapa from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston (Videos from Synthesis Unit “Space: Where Are We Going?”). After the speaker series, Anacapa students then hopped a bus to visit the space launch complexes at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County.

As a complement to this year’s Synthesis Unit, Anacapa teachers across varying content areas have incorporated lessons regarding space, astronomy, NASA, and the ISS into their subject curriculum.

ARISS and Teaching From Space, a NASA education office, support participating schools in instilling interest in science, technology, engineering and math subjects and careers among students. The ARISS radio contact is one in a series of educational activities in the U.S. and abroad to improve teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Teaching From Space promotes a variety of learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of human spaceflight.


ANSEC Team members pose next to the satellite antenna array after the contact with Astronaut Chris Cassidy.

ANSEC Team members pose next to the satellite antenna array after the contact with Astronaut Chris Cassidy.