Stanford student space initiative sasha maldonado paige brown

Circuit Break Podcast #64

Stanford Student Space Initiative with Sasha Maldonado and Paige Brown

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April 21, 2017, Episode #64

Stephen and Parker talk with Sasha and Paige about high altitude balloons and the ValBal project.
  • Our guests this week are Sasha Maldonado and Paige Brown of the Stanford Student Space Initiative.
  • Sasha Maldonado
    • Stanford junior majoring in Electrical Engineering.
    • Now retired avionics lead on the ValBal project, and has been with the project since its inception.
    • Co-presidents of the Student Space Initiative, also known as SSI, , and is working on electronics for an SSI-built satellite payload.
  • Paige Brown
    • Stanford freshman majoring in Chemical Engineering
    • The mechanical engineering lead on the ValBal project, and also helps manage flight control logistics.
    • Outside of SSI, she works in an environmental engineering lab on phosphate pollution remediation in storm water through chemical absorption.
  • ValBal
    • A novel, low cost high-altitude balloon system that achieves multi-day flight using inexpensive latex balloons by automatically venting lifting gas and dispensing ballast to maintain altitude.
    • Latex balloons typically cost little more than a hundred dollars, but in normal use fly for only a couple hours, rising until reduced atmospheric pressure causes the balloon to stretch beyond its limits.
    • The system, known as ValBal, can fly multi-kilogram payloads for multiple days for approximately $1000, offering a 10-100x improvement in cost and superior altitude control when compared with other scientific balloon systems.
  • Project has been featured on Hack-a-day for the longest flight duration of a latex balloon.
  • Worthwhile Links
Figure 1: Sasha Maldonado

Figure 1: Sasha Maldonado

Figure 2: Paige Brown

Figure 2: Paige Brown

Figure 3: SSI-48 Launch Group

Figure 3: SSI-48 Launch Group

Figure 4: The ballast system for the ValBal project

Figure 4: The ballast system for the ValBal project

Figure 5: Mission Patch for the upcoming launch of SSI-52

Figure 5: Mission Patch for the upcoming launch of SSI-52

About the Hosts

Parker Dillmann
  Parker Dillmann

Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.

In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.

In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.

Parker also runs the blog,, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.

Stephen Kraig
  Stephen Kraig

Stephen Kraig is a component engineer working in the aerospace industry. He has applied his electrical engineering knowledge in a variety of contexts previously, including oil and gas, contract manufacturing, audio electronic repair, and synthesizer design. A graduate of Texas A&M, Stephen has lived his adult life in the Houston, TX, and Denver, CO, areas.

Stephen has never said no to a project. From building guitar amps (starting when he was 17) to designing and building his own CNC table to fine-tuning the mineral composition of the water he uses to brew beer, he thrives on testing, experimentation, and problem-solving. Tune into the podcast to learn more about the wacky stuff Stephen gets up to.

Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!