Ohm-itted Gravity; Improving Secondary Education Using a Countrywide Distribution of Educational Technology

Goodman, Daniel, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Barnes, Adam, EN-Elec & Comp Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Davis, William, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Education is a privilege that is not shared equally in today’s climate. Who a person is and what resources they have at their disposal are some of the many factors that determine what a person is able to learn. For my technical project, we sought to address the inequality of only wealthy institutions being able to conduct research in the field of hypersonics. Through developing the electronics required for data acquisition and transmission of a CubeSat device, we worked to prove the viability of a lower cost option for groups to participate in hypersonics research. For my STS project, I researched how access to technology, specifically internet-enabled devices, impacts the education of secondary students. Going beyond that, I also investigated potential options for funding a program which would provide devices to all secondary students on a national level.
The technical portion of my thesis was to produce the electronics and software of a CubeSat hypersonic glider. CubeSats are small and modular devices that are sent up to space on third-party launches and ejected once the launch has left Earth’s atmosphere. These devices are often used in research and educational settings due to the relatively low cost and simplicity when compared to full launches. My team and I were responsible for designing hardware and software to allow the CubeSat to collect and transmit temperature and pressure data during its mission, as seen in Figure 1. Once the data is collected, the CubeSat would then send the data to a satellite which would relay it back to Earth. Though the project will not be able to launch for another year, we were able to successfully test all the components individually and as a full system. As a whole, success for the project will prove that affordable hypersonic experiments are possible by using CubeSats.
In my STS research, I explored the relation between technology and education. I began by assessing if students who have internet-enabled devices can perform better than students without these devices. I found that there is a higher level of success with students that had these devices across English and mathematics courses. After establishing that these devices are useful in a educational setting, I performed a case study of two locations that had a widespread distribution of devices. The first location was Nigeria. Although the cultures are very different between the United States and Nigeria, it demonstrated how politically charged school-issued devices could be. The second location was Canada, where devices were provided to keep students in remote areas learning during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. This case made clear that mobile data is more effective than Wi-Fi at reaching students in a variety of situations. Using the information gained from these cases, I proposed a plan that could be adopted by the United States to get devices to all secondary students. Local governments would create contracts with companies to not favor any one business. The funding would potentially come from a restructuring of the current Social Security system, which is necessary but is quickly becoming unsustainable. Overall, the proposed program would bring accessibility for learning to students all over the country regardless of the circumstances of their birth.
CubeSats and technology for students are inherently related. One of the main reasons that CubeSats are being adopted is that they are affordable enough to use in an educational setting. Before CubeSats, students were unable to participate in hypersonic experiments. Now, with the landscape changing, students are able to leave college with impressive hypersonic experiments on their resume because of accessible technology. Realizing this impact that CubeSats could have on college students’ education lead me to investigating how technology could improve the education of other levels of students. In different ways, my technical project and my research both demonstrated the importance of accessibility and how much impact technology can have as long as it is widely available.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Education, Politics of Technology, Secondary Education, Accessibility, Socioeconomic Factors

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
Technical Advisor: Adam Barnes
STS Advisor: William Davis
Technical Team Members: Luke Bulmer, Justin Casotti, Connor Schichtel

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