McLellan brings America's universities onto the campus of RHS, opening doors for local students
By Ben Bruni, Principal

Posted on September 6, 2017 11:17 PM

The August 21 Eclipse brought considerable notoriety to Western KY and Russellville was a hot bed of activity as there was no shortage on out of state visitors who traveled from all over to witness the historic event. But some visitors were more than just casual observers.

In fact, through the efforts of Russellville High School Science teacher Robby McLellan, several esteemed universities spent the day on the campus of Russellville Jr./Sr. High School. Temple, Southern Mississippi, and the University of Kentucky all sent teams to the Russellville campus to launch weather balloons that streamed the event to over 55 fellow universities and colleges. 

The nationwide NASA Eclipse Ballooning Program run through UK was able to launch their balloons from Russellville High School and streamed video of the eclipse from the edge of space. NASA’s project to live-stream video from the edge of space was conceived in 2014 and started involving students nationwide in 2015. Since then, 55 primarily college student teams across the U.S. designed and built camera and atmospheric experiment systems to launch with more than 70 balloons from sites all along the eclipse path.

The UK team of 24 was led by a half dozen Junior/Senior students who have been working on the project for two to three years, with most of the rest being sophomores who joined the team as freshmen and worked all last year on designs and practice launches. The large majority of students are engineering students: computer science, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and biosystems/ag engineering. Ten of the 24 are women. Also, two out-of-state teams joined the UK team in Russellville, from Temple University and Mississippi State

Program director Dr. Suzanne Smith of UK said of the use of Russellville’s facilities and the accommodations made by Mr. McLellan, “It is difficult to express how much your support meant to the students involved. I also wanted to share with you everyone’s thoughts about what a special teacher you have in Robert McLellan.”

Dr. Smith continued to praise the hard working science teacher when she said, “The visiting team advisors both sought me out to express their thanks for everything that Robert did to help make their project a success and experience in Kentucky extremely positive. John Helverty, the faculty advisor from Temple in Philadelphia, said, ‘I have heard of Southern hospitality before, but have never experienced it until this visit. Robert met us yesterday (Sunday) so that we could see the launch site and stayed hours to be sure that our set-up would work well on Monday.’”   

Mr. McLellan’s efforts didn’t stop at assisting the universities, he had his own telescope projecting the eclipse, sun spots and more, and helped the visiting university students learn about the sun and the eclipse throughout the day.

One of the visiting professors remarked about Mr. Mclellan and his work with the students on campus, “I expect that each one of these students decided to major in engineering because of an amazing science teacher. The way they talk about Robert, it’s clear he’s a great one. He modeled a positive can-do attitude and incredible hospitality. He supported them to succeed and added unforgettable science lessons along the way.”

As a result of the efforts of Mr. McLellan, Russellville students have been invited to take part in the UK Engineers Day (E-Day) where they will be provided with tours of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) laboratory that flew aircraft and rotorcraft for the eclipse carrying atmospheric and ground sensors at the Russellville Airport. Moreover, they will have the chance to be set up for them to meet with undergraduate students working to develop unmanned aircraft, spacecraft and the eclipse ballooning systems.  

Mr. McLellan, opening doors for students of Russellville through his love of science!


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