Inside Amateur Science: The Best in Out-of-Lab Research
EXPERTISE : Before serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for seven years, Verhage received his bachelor degree in physics from California State University. He has years of experience building circuit boards, robots, rovers and a variety of vehicles that fly. One of his main focuses is building rockets and launching them into near space—they reach altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet.
PROJECTS : Verhage is currently working on balloon-driven science satellites. These near-space craft are constructed mostly from items found at local supermarkets and hardware stores, such as soft-sided lunchboxes, X-Acto knives and hot glue guns. The balloons are capable of measuring temperature and wind speed. He also equips them with digital cameras that take photographs of the near-space environment. Working with Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooners, he has launched miniature weather stations, cosmic-ray telescopes and imaging equipment with the balloons in an effort to increase our understanding of this environment.
DAY JOB : After his time in the Air Force, Verhage received a master's in secondary education and is now a high school teacher who specializes in electronics. His classes include DC theory, AC theory, digital and solid-state electronics, after-market auto manufacturing and, as an extra-curricular activity, he leads groups of students in building and launching their own balloon satellites. The amateur scientist also has regular columns in a variety of publications, including The Citizen Scientist, Nuts and Volts and Amateur Television Quarterly.