Team Number: 036

School: Melrose High School

Areas of Science: Earth Science, Physics

Title: Sun Talkers

Project Purpose

Our project deals with the usage of a heliograph system to transmit messages. We are trying to figure out how to send messages over long distances, hopefully across many states.

Problem Solution

To accomplish this, we are calculating the heights and locations of different mountain peaks. We are also trying to find how far the line of sight view is from various spots.

Progress to Date

To date, we have started a powerpoint presentation on our project that we will present in February. We have been working on finding the locations of mountain peaks and plateaus that might be favorable locations to place the heliographs. We have found these using maps that have altitudes and longitues printed in them. The maps we are using also have the elevation of the higher peaks. Therefore we can get the locations and elevations that we need to know easily. So far, we have used the New Mexico Atlas & Gazetteer and the Arizona Atlas & Gazetteer.

We are using geometric formulas to calculate the line of sight between two peaks along the curvature of the earth. We are also calculating how far the light can reach from the top of peaks based on the various heights. We also have a math major from a local university who is willing to help us with the more difficult calculations.

Since we are planning to build a heliograph ourselves, we have looked further into what makes up one. The heliograph is mainly a mounted mirror. It has a rotator that can change the destination of where the light will be signaled. By changing the reflecting angles, signals can be sent to a certain location. The mirror is on a stand, which makes it more convienient to position on the mountain peaks. Flashes of light off of the mirror can creat a moris code pattern of information transfer.

We have researched the history and use of the heliograph in the past. It was used during westward expansion amongst white settlers in their forts to protect against Indians. The signals symbolized that the Indians were coming and they could prepare themselves to be ready to fight. It was also used during World War I as a warning of approaching enemy troops. This proves taht heliographs do work and are able to send long range signals. We might look into the previous locations of the heliographs and calculate how far they were able to transmit messages.

Expected Results

We expect to construct a heliograph and test it. We are going to finish calculations and determine the maximum distance that the signals can reach. We are planning to figure a path to send a message across several states.