The Signal Boost of the Week goes to my coworker Mark Gilbert, who is doing a most seriously awesome kid-science podcast with his ten-year-old daughter, Katherine. Mark and Katherine started off with the kind of experiments you’d expect for a grade-school science geek: the good old rubber eggshell trick, some Coffee Filter Chromatography, that sort of thing. But then Mark upped the ante, bigtime.

He came into the office one morning and showed me this mindblowing video of a guy who sent his son’s Thomas the Tank Engine toy into outer space, and announced that he was not only going to try the same experiment — but that he and Katherine were going to do the project together and add it to their science podcast. How great is that? Katherine gets hands-on experience, learning everything from how GPS works to how to fit LEDs to a breadboard and then write code to control them on an Arduino microcontroller. Katherine even got to interview candidates for the stratonaut position.

Mark’s got several sensors planned for the unit, and if everything goes right, it’ll collect all sorts of data, including pressure, temperature, altitude, and positioning and export them to an SD card for later use. Can you say best science-fair project ever? I’m getting all giddy just thinking how pretty the graphs are going to be. Data is so beautiful, you guys.

I even get to be a member of the mission team — in the event that the unit hits a lake on its return to Earth, Mark’s asked me and my kayak to be the water rescue patrol. I’m so geeked to be part of this project — especially since it teaches a kid something from every single STEM field. Stay tuned to the Mark of Quality blog for more updates!