Depending on who you ask, it's either 50 miles or 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) straight up from the surface of Mother Earth to "space." The discrepancy is accounted for by a variation in measurement between the United States and the rest of the world. You might ask the students of Clint Thomsen, a CTE instructor for Tooele County School District in Utah. The kids have firsthand information, although not because they've been to space themselves.
Rather, Thomsen's students recently used their mastery of Linux to design, program, and build a hot-air balloon that ascended to the upper reaches of Earth's stratosphere before returning intact to the surface of the planet. Their sturdy vessel bore aloft both a GoPro camera and an intrepid aeronaut, a tiny stuffed penguin nicknamed Tux (also the nickname of the cartoon penguin that is the more-or-less official mascot of Linux).
Tux's high-flying voyage lasted more than three hours, but you can view star-to-finish highlights of the journey on YouTube:
Pretty cool, right? This is the sort of thing that people are talking about when they say that there's no limit to what one can do with a little assistance from technology. Elementary school kids sometimes send up notes attached to helium balloons and ask whoever finds the balloon upon its return to Earth to contact their school. The Tooele kids' accomplishment makes that feel like a baking soda volcano on the scale of scientific inquiry.
Thomsen's students learned Linux and honed their skills using TestOut's Linux Pro courseware. And that's what we hope for from everyone who uses TestOut courseware. It's not about memorizing answers to pass a test. It's about acquiring knowledge and then figuring out how to use it. If you only ever apply your skills to passing a test, what have you really learned? If you can send a penguin into space, on the other hand, then there's no telling what you might accomplish next.
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