BUNKER HILL - A small crew of Maconaquah staff has been hard at work preparing for Maconaquah Elementary School’s contact with the International Space Station Thursday.

Mac El is one of 12 organizations in the United States chosen for the prestigious event of making an Amateur Radio International Space Station (ARISS) contact this fall. The school’s allotted time slot for select students to ask Japanese Astronaut Kimiya Yui questions starts at 11:52 a.m. and lasts about 11 minutes.

Bill McAlpin, president of the Miami County HAM Radio Club, will be the primary radio operator during the contact. He has been gathering equipment and setting up primary and backup radio stations for the contact. He will be adjusting the radio frequencies accordingly as the space station orbits around the Earth.

“I’m nervous just because we have 11 minutes,” McAlpin said. “It’s such a small window.”

Throughout the week, McAlpin, Maconaquah High School custodian Mike Glassburn, and Network Administrator Justin Byrd have been installing antennas on the roof of the high school, testing radio signals, and preparing audio and visual equipment for the contact.

“It’s not like you can practice talking to them,” McAlpin said. However, he added there are some things you can do to prepare.

The 15 students who are asking Yui questions practiced their questions in the auditorium Wednesday. They practiced asking their questions in a clear, slow voice to make it understandable. Their questions were also timed to make sure all students are able to ask their questions within the 11-minute window. Every student at Mac El prepared a question for the ARISS contact, and the 15 students who will ask their questions Thursday were selected by teacher Cassandra Knolinski and Principal Kelly McPike as winners of the contest.

Fifth grade student Riley Hair said she is “excited and nervous” to ask Yui the question, and she is thankful to be able to practice her question beforehand.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Hair said. “I think it will go good.”

Third grader Logan White said he was excited, nervous, and thankful he was selected to ask a question.

White’s question for Yui is if he’s ever seen the Hubble Space Telescope from the ISS. He said he thought of the question because he knows both orbit the Earth, so he is curious to know if they get close to each other.

Knolinski is the teacher who was approved for the project, after she received her HAM Radio license earlier this year. She is “so excited and anxious for the contact.”

“When I think about it in my classroom, I talk out loud about how excited I am,” she said. “I can't wait to hear the astronaut's voice for the first time. I just keep trying to imagine what it will be like to hear the astronaut's voice.”

Knolinski thanked a list of people, including McAlpin, Principal Kelly McPike, Superintendent Dr. Doug Arnold, Assistant Superintendent Dr. James Callane, the College of Education at Purdue University, Maconaquah High School Principal Chad Carlson, Grant Writer and Public Relations Officer Eric Stoff, the corporation's technology department, custodial crew, cafeteria staff, and her fellow teachers.

Although the event is not open to the public, it will be webcast on Maconaquah’s website. The webcast can be found by visiting www.maconaquah.k12.in.us.

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