Georgia Southern University mascot goes out of this world - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Georgia Southern University mascot goes out of this world

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STATESBORO, GA (WTVM) -

In an effort to encourage young people to be excited about science, Georgia Southern University has launched their Eagle mascot, GUS, into the stratosphere.   

The GUS in Space project was a mission to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning. A figurine version of the mascot was attached to a weather balloon rigged with multiple high definition video cameras, and tracking equipment for lift-off at Paulson Stadium.

GUS reached an altitude of 102,000 feet before the weather balloon burst and a parachute returned the Eagle mascot to earth. He traveled more than 70 miles and touched down in a wooded area outside of Mount Vernon, Ga.

"GUS in Space wasn't just a gimmick because there was a lot of technology behind it," said University President Brooks A. Keel, Ph.D. "This was a great experiment for our University to blend the wow factor with real science, technology, engineering and math and give our students an opportunity to put textbook material into a real-life situation for a great learning experience."

The Center for Academic Technology Support faculty and staff, and students conducted the project.

Two students in particular, Cameron Cato and Jeremy Goodman, were responsible for designing the telemetry system to track GUS.

"This whole project relied on recovering it," said Goodman. "If we didn't recover it, we didn't have anything."  

"It was quite impressive that what we made could go up more than one hundred thousand feet and survive the extreme cold of 95 degrees below zero," explained Cato. "All the electronics came through in great shape and were working fine when we recovered GUS."

Goodman also took pride in his role in sending GUS into the stratosphere. "The cameras captured some amazing video which shows the curvature of the earth and should help promote STEM education," he said. "This is an exciting experience. How many people can say they put something into near space?"

The university's efforts in STEM education include practical, hands-on use of technology in the telemetry, satellite and antenna labs, which are all showcased in this effort.

"It's not difficult to launch something into space with a weather balloon, but to track its every move from launch to landing was really something special for our students," said Vice President for Research and Economic Development Charles Patterson, Ph.D. "By being able to show the science behind such a fun and entertaining project, we hope to get more children interested in STEM careers."

Associate Dean of Faculty and Research Programs Karin Scarpinato, Ph.D., said this experiment demonstrated that science does not have to be boring or intimidating and that GUS in Space brought people together who typically don't work with each other. "This definitely shows how important it is to be interdisciplinary in STEM education, but also shows that what you learn in the classroom can be applied in real life whether it's doing something fun like putting GUS in space or in a career choice where you will need the same skills," said Scarpinato.

Watch GUS in Space on YouTube.

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