NASA to Launch High School Students’ Satellite

Source: Montana State University

I’m continually amazed at how technology progresses: Where once computers were the size of warehouses, now they can be as small as spare change. Likewise, where once launching a satellite consumed a small but significant chunk of the GDP of a prosperous nation, now high school students can design a satellite and have it launched into orbit.

A satellite developed and built by about 50 students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology over the past eight years—the first ever built by high school students—is scheduled to be launched into orbit by NASA November 19, weather permitting.

The satellite, known as TJ3Sat (pronounced TJ-cube-sat), is one of 20 satellites selected by NASA as part of its CubeSat Launch Initiative, which includes cube-shaped research satellites that weigh approximately three pounds, also known as nanosatellites.

The CubeSat initiative isn’t new; people have been designing and launching very small satellites for a couple of decades now. When my husband was in grad school in the 90s his department was involved in such a launch. It just blows my mind that the technology has become accessible enough that even high school students can design a space-capable system now. Congratulations to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology students and good luck for their launch!

[Editor note: GeekMom Jenny sends out a special congratulations to the students at her old high school! (Class of ’91)]

Thanks, Freddie Wong!

Image By Rocket Jump
Image By Rocket Jump

To the producers and writers of Video Game High School Season Two:

YAAAAAAAAY!!!!!! You did it! You are part of the Web Entertainment Revolution. You have a high quality filmed, action-romatic-comedy, with developing characters, in a unique fictional universe, only available on the internet.

Awhile back I sent A Plea To Freddie Wong to take a great concept, well-produced show, and take it to a better level of plot and characters. With season two of Video Game High School, there is the time (thirty minute episodes) and the writing to do just that. I’ve watched up to episode four, and have been completely entertained. The series manages to blend multiple surrealistic game worlds with the everyday life of teenagers in a very cool high school.

There was a Kickstarter for this second season that went completely over their goal, and you all have put the funds to good use. The settings, costumes, and action-sequences are great. It must be so much fun because the actors get to be in multiple places in every episode. No boring sets here.

With the very first, I was giggling. The office scene with the Benji Dolly, Ellary Porterfield, and Freddie Wong discussing homework was hilarious. 

Keep it up! I hope everyone tunes in to watch your Video Game High School Season Two.

Peace and games,

Rebecca Angel


Prom Night Memories: The Good, the Bad, and Tears for Fears

Rebecca Angel with high hopes on prom night.

This post was published on the original GeekMom site, then published again on Wired, and now it’s back here! I can’t get enough of these stories, so please add your own!

Do geeks go to prom? In fiction, it depends on the gender. Geek guys rarely go, unless they are the comic relief. Geek girls can often have the “Cinderella” dream happen and become the belle of the ball.

But that’s fiction. What about in real life?

I recently shared my prom story with the community of geekmoms and a few dared to tell about their own:

I asked the guy I liked to my prom, even though he was a junior, and my friends thought I was weird. However, I was convinced he would ask me to be his girlfriend that night…then hoped it would happen the next day. We went to NYC to see Nine Inch Nails, but couldn’t get in the club because we weren’t 21 (even though we paid for the tickets). I was so disappointed. He didn’t ask me to be his girlfriend at all that weekend, and I found out later that was because he already had a girlfriend, but thought it was fun to lead me on anyway. Damn, younger men! – ME

Continue reading Prom Night Memories: The Good, the Bad, and Tears for Fears

Music Week: One Time… At Orchestra Camp… Confessions of an Orchestra Geek

January 1988. How geeky are thee? Let me count the ways! From the glasses to the braces to the violin, I had all the bases covered! Photo: Linder Fox (my mother), used with permission.

I think I’m known among the other GeekMoms as your token STEM-geek. And the token military geek. Most things in my life use the left side of my brain, and I’m pretty proud of that.

But once upon a time I used the right side quite a bit…as an orchestra geek in middle and high school…and a little bit even in college until Air Force ROTC took over my life.  I did all that token stuff that overachieving orchestra geeks do: regional orchestra, state orchestra, private lessons, music camp at the local universities, the local youth symphony, etc.

Like many American kids, I was introduced to my first musical instrument while in elementary school, in my case in Norfolk, Virginia.  I chose to play the violin, starting in 5th grade, and I had a great time with it.  It also opened my mind to music history and my cassette tape collection became dominated by Deutsche Grammophon and Sony Classical albums.  I have always naturally migrated towards bands with violins and fiddles: Camper Van Beethoven, Dave Matthews Band, Alison Krauss and Union Station, etc.

In 9th grade I auditioned for, and was accepted into, the Norfolk Public Schools Strolling Silver Strings program.  I became a strolling violinist!  We played 50+ “gigs” per year all over Virginia.  This raised the bar for me, going from playing easy Bach and Mozart from sheet music to playing jazz standards and Rat Pack classics from memory!

The Strolling Silver Strings, Spring 1989. Can you spot the GeekMom?

Let me tell you, this was the extracurricular activity to end all extracurricular activities!  We routinely missed school for performances, especially during the holidays when we were booked to play at community holiday parties throughout the area.  We rehearsed on weekends and late into the nights when we had high-profile concerts coming up — such as Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder’s Inaugaration in 1990.

We were GOOD!  We were sought out throughout the community because we were also free of charge!  This military brat was exposed to a whole world of parties, balls and galas that I otherwise wouldn’t have known existed in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.  Sure, I was the “hired” help, but it was fun nonetheless.

The Strolling Silver Strings took a trip to Walt Disney World for their Magic Music Days program in 1989.  I remember strolling through one of the EPCOT restaurants side-by-side with Mickey and Minnie Mouse during a character dining experience.

My high school music program took me around the country and around the world! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

In 1991, the week after I graduated from high school, I joined the group as it performed several concerts in the Chamonix Valley in France.  The trip was wholly funded by a philantropic couple in the local community who heard the group and fell in love!

I figured I would major in music in college and become a professional musician.  I loved playing the violin, and would gladly have done it for money!

Sadly, as I went through high school, I learned more about what other classical musicians in my community had to do to keep afloat.  You couldn’t just play the violin for the local symphony.  Many were also teaching at local high schools, giving private lessons, or working at local music stores.  And then there was a big strike in 1989 that spooked me some.  I remember seeing the director of the Strolling Silver Strings pictured in our local newspaper picketing.

That’s when I decided to lean towards my other passion: meteorology.  I had to re-direct my energy to colleges that offered meteorology (not as many as offer music, it turns out).

In college, even as a meteorology major, I managed to take some private violin lessons and participate in the Penn State Philharmonic for 3 semesters and had lots of fun keeping up with my passion.  It was here that I had the chance to play in my first ever full opera — the work involved put my Strolling Silver Strings rehearsals to shame!  I also got to enjoy some band-and-orchestra-geekiness in my social circles, hanging out with orchestra, marching band and music fraternity friends during my freshman year.

Alas, those music days slowly drew to a close as my Air Force ROTC commitments became more dominant, and my circle of friends migrated to fellow meteorology majors and AFROTC cadets.

Even after college, I continued to play my violin on occasion, for my church and at social functions.  The last time I played in public was on Good Friday 2005 just after my second son was born…I miss it terribly, but having two children put my music on the backburner.

Our two sons are enrolled in piano lessons — something that I never did as a child and I guess am correcting that through my kids.  My left-brained oldest son is definitely very analytical with his music — he’s a very very good player. My husband and I both are looking forward to the day they come home from school asking “Can we participate in band/orchestra/chorus?”  And if one of them wants to play violin — stand back!  Momma’s breaking out her fiddle yet again!

Music Week: A Music Career is Not For Everyone

I'm in the front, rehearsing for the musical "Annie"

I’ve been music lover since I was a child. I think it all started when I was cast as Molly in my local community theater’s production of Annie. I got the part because I was cute and could act as well as a 7 year old can, but I couldn’t sing at all. All my singing solos were given to other orphans because I was that bad.

Despite a lack of natural musical talent, I continued to be involved with music. When I was in the 6th grade, I joined the school band and learned how to play the clarinet. I continued with the band throughout high school.

I really wanted to learn how to sing, so my parents got me private lessons once a week at a local college. In my senior year of high school, I also joined the school choir. It was during this time of my life that I was preparing for college, and I came up with the idea that I would major in music.

I pursued the major and had to audition before I could even start signing up for music classes. Now, I don’t have any fear of speaking publicly, but I do have a fear of singing by myself in front of other people. Despite this fear, I managed to get accepted into the music program. I got an adviser who also gave me private lessons, and I was really excited. But the wind soon went out of my sails when I started my piano class.

This class was mandatory and it was one that I was looking really forward to. I always had wanted to learn how to play the piano. Unfortunately, the teacher assumed that we knew a little about playing the piano, which I didn’t. I quickly  fell behind and ended up dropping the class.

During my year as a music major, I realized one important fact. I did not want to be a teacher, and since that was pretty much the only career path I had since I wasn’t very good, I changed my major.

I was still involved in music throughout my years in college. I was in the woman’s chorus every semester except a few when I had class conflicts. I also was in the band one semester as well, though I’m not sure how I got in because while I was a fair singer, I really was bad on my clarinet.

I don’t regret my year as a music major, though I’m glad I didn’t try and pursue it longer. I ended up with a degree in Broadcasting which I think I was better suited for (though I don’t use that degree much either). I applaud anyone who is a musician for a career, because it is hard and was too hard for me.