Extended to November 20, 2020
Overview of Program
The LIFT Project is a multi-disciplinary outreach program, funded by the National Science Foundation, that brings together UW undergraduate students from science, engineering, and education backgrounds for the purpose of developing authentic K-12 scientific projects and curricula for high-altitude ballooning. Students will work in small teams and be paired with a partner teacher from a K-12 school in Wyoming. Each team will undertake a specific science- or engineering-related project, which includes: (1) designing and testing a balloon payload to be launched with a high-altitude weather balloon to near space (~100,000 ft above sea level), and (2) developing relevant curriculum, lessons, and activities. When finished, the teams will have the opportunity to carry out their projects with the students from their partner teacher’s classroom (in person or virtually), culminating in a high-altitude balloon launch in Fall 2021. Mentors will regularly meet with the teams to provide guidance, help with project design, and offer feedback.
Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 semesters
Open to all UW undergraduate students. However, high priority will be given to sophomores and juniors majoring in the physical sciences, engineering, and education. Students must be enrolled during both the Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 semesters and should not be planning on graduating any earlier than May 2022.
What To Expect
- Students chosen for the program will be assembled into teams of three. Teams are typically composed of two science/engineering students and one education student. For education applicants, a STEM-related background is preferred but by no means a requirement (three of the five previous LIFT education students did not have STEM-related backgrounds).
- Each team will work together to brainstorm, develop, and carry out their own project focusing on either science- or engineering-related concepts. The projects will be aimed at K-12 classrooms, with a specific focus on the grade levels taught by the partner teachers.
- Teams will be responsible for designing and building their own balloon payloads from scratch. Depending on the scope of each project, the payloads may be fairly simple or perhaps more sophisticated.
- Teams will also be responsible for developing the curriculum for their project, which includes: (1) pre-launch lessons/activities intended to teach the concepts and prepare the K-12 classrooms for the launch, and (2) post-launch lessons/activities for follow-up or data analysis. The teams are expected to deliver (i.e., teach) these lessons/activities to the K-12 students during Fall 2021, either in person or virtually, in collaboration with their partner teachers.
- Teams should be present for and participate in all balloon launches associated with their project. (Note: the actual launches will be conducted by experienced LIFT Project staff members.)
- We will be recording videos and taking photos at various times throughout the project, especially during the classroom visits and balloon launches. LIFT students who appear on camera must consent to allow the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium to use any of these videos or photos on its website, social media platforms, promotional material, and other media related to the LIFT Project.
- Students are expected to spend an average of 8-10 hours/week working on the project
- Students must be able to meet at least once per week with their teams and/or project mentors
- Some occasional travel is necessary, especially during Fall 2021. Students should be available to participate in several (about 4-5) multi-day trips during the program, for balloon launches and for in-person visits to their partner teacher’s classroom. If necessary, we can help students obtain university-excused absences.
- Students can earn a stipend of up to $2,250 ($1,125 per semester)
- All travel-related expenses (including meals) are covered
- Summer internships may also be available
- Looks great on a resume!
DISCLAIMER: Impacts from COVID-19
At this time, we are hopeful that COVID-19 will not have any significant impacts on the 2021 LIFT Project. However, if COVID-19 does end up leading to K-12 school restrictions (i.e., no visitors allowed) or a ban on UW-related travel during 2021, the LIFT Project will attempt to “go virtual” as much as possible. In this case, the LIFT teams will be responsible for modifying their lessons and activities so that they can be taught remotely. Balloon launches would likely be carried out in Laramie, with the K-12 students following along online. Again, we expect that the 2021 LIFT Project will carry on as planned with limited to no restrictions. However, any students who apply should understand that these possibilities exist and be prepared to work on the project virtually if necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I learn more about high-altitude ballooning?
The Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium has been running a high-altitude ballooning program since 2014. We have lots of resources on our high-altitude ballooning webpage that you can check out. We also post all of our balloon launch highlight videos to our YouTube channel.
I am an education major with no formal background in science or engineering. Does this put me at a disadvantage?
No! While it does help to have some background in a STEM-related field, it is not a requirement. In fact, three of the five education students we accepted in 2019 and 2020 did not specialize in a STEM-related field. All three did quite well and exceeded our expectations while working on LIFT. If you are a non-STEM education major but have a strong desire to learn and find the LIFT Project to be an intriguing opportunity to further your education, we encourage you to apply!
What kind of summer internships will be available?
While the we don’t plan on offering any summer internships of our own in 2021, our NASA connections often open up unique internship opportunities for our LIFT students. For example, in 2019 we were able to send two LIFT students to NASA Goddard for the summer. This past summer, we sent a student to Montana State University for an internship with their high-altitude ballooning program. These types of opportunities may or may not be available in 2021, although we do try to help our students find NASA-related internships if they are interested.
I am planning to graduate in December 2021. Can I apply?
No, this project is primarily aimed at students who will be sophomores or juniors during the spring and fall 2021 semesters. For many students (e.g., engineering & education majors), their senior years can get quite busy and we do not want the heavy school workload to disrupt their participation in the LIFT Project (and vice versa).
I am technically a senior (i.e., I’m in year 4) but I am not planning to graduate until May 2022 or later. Can I apply?
Yes, but please only apply if you are sure that you will have the time to devote to the LIFT Project during both the spring and fall 2021 semesters. Please do not apply if you will be student teaching or involved in a senior design project during either of those two semesters.
I am planning to have a large course load (i.e., 20+ credits) during the spring or fall 2021 semester. Can I apply?
Yes you can apply, but again we ask that you be absolutely sure that you can devote the time to the LIFT Project during both semesters. A very heavy school workload is likely to eventually disrupt your participation in the LIFT Project (and vice versa).
I will be a student athlete in 2021. Can I apply?
Can I apply if I’m only going to be enrolled part time?
Yes, as long as you are taking enough credits to be considered part time at UW, you are eligible to apply.
Can I apply if I will not be on campus (i.e., living remotely and taking all classes online)?
This is a rather unique scenario, although in the age of COVID-19 this may become more common in the years to come. If you will be in this situation in 2021, please contact Phil Bergmaier or Trina Kilty and provide us with details about where you’ll be living. To get the most out of the project, it’s best that all LIFT students be able to meet regularly in person, either with mentors or with their team. If you are unable to make that commitment, you may want to reconsider applying.
Is this open to non-UW students?
No, the LIFT Project is currently only open to University of Wyoming undergraduate students enrolled at least part time.