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High school entrepreneurs launch innovative advertising concept

July 3, 2014

Using Earth to Sky’s Edge of Space Greeting Card service, this photo within a photo of Bishop resident Olivia Grah and father David Grah at 100,000 feet above the earth was Olivia’s 2014 Father’s Day gift to her dad. Photo courtesy Earth to Sky Calculus LLC

An extracurricular Bishop Union High School science club has officially launched a stratospheric commercial company that literally allows clients to test and publicize their products from the edge of Earth’s atmosphere.
For a fee, Earth to Sky Calculus LLC will launch products and photos to the edge of Earth’s stratosphere and return video of the flight and the product to the client. The student-run company also does stress testing of satellite components and other space-bound equipment. Earth to Sky also remains research driven, collecting useful data such as its Jan. 8 photo shoot of scant snowpacks, revealing the effects of the current drought on the Eastern Sierra.
On the lighter side, people can send up photos and greetings for personal occasions. Last year, the group was featured in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not?” for its 2012 launch of a rubber chicken to the edge of outer space.
Science club Earth to Sky, which started in 2010 under the leadership of Dr. Tony Phillips, became Earth to Sky Calculus LLC in 2013. While Phillips serves as the students’ mentor in balloon launching and entrepreneurial basics, “the students own 93 percent of the stock in the company and they are in complete charge,” Phillips said.
All officers and shareholders are BUHS and college students: Chief Executive Officer Amelia Koske-Phillips; Chief of Staff Aaron Lamb, Vice President of Research Carson Reid, Vice President of Business Administration Olivia Grah and Payload Recovery Specialist Michael White. Shareholders include White, Sam Johnson, Rachel Molina, Bronwyn Stephenson, Ginger Perez and Justin Gilpin. BUHS students who work with the business and may become shareholders include Zoe Anderson, Joey Harvey, Duncan Reid, Makayla McDevitt and Sam and Owen Ohmandi, Phillips added.
The name Earth to Sky was suggested by Koske-Phillips, a fan of the Bishop sports shoe and apparel store, Sage to Summit, Phillips said of his daughter.  “Stratospheric advertising was also Amelia’s idea.  She suggested flying a running shoe to the edge of space.” Sage to Summit owner Karen Schwartz liked the idea, “thus, Sage to Summit became our first client.”
“Without Amelia, we wouldn’t have much of what we have today,” Lamb added.
Other Earth to Sky clientele has included Boy Scouts of America, Neurodrink, Cuperella, a gourmet bakery in Germany, NASA and Celestron Telescopes.
It costs $750 to send a shoe, telescope or other product to the edge of space, Phillips said.  “For that cost, the customer receives video footage of the entire flight as well as the flown object …
after its journey to the top of Earth’s atmosphere.”
There’s also the Edge of Space Greeting Card service. For $49.95, a person can celestially celebrate a personal event such as birthday or anniversary. “Send us your picture.  We will put it on a digital tablet and fly your picture more than 100,000 feet above Earth’s surface,” Phillips explained.
Profits from the business are re-invested in the company and used to fund student research, Phillips added.
Aside from serving research and clients, Earth to Sky members said they are personally edified.
Koske-Phillips said starting the business has been extremely difficult yet “one of the most rewarding experiences … I’ve learned so much about real world applications, and it’s helped shape my career. I hope to continue building the company using what I learn in business school.”
Lamb described the rewards of his involvement in the business. As chief of staff, his duties “revolve around the recruitment, training and retention of Earth to Sky personnel as well as serving as lead legal researcher.” He handles the company Facebook page, Instagram and upcoming website and “serves as the public liaison, creating the Earth to Sky public calendar, planning public speaking events and ensuring that all students expected at an event arrive prepared in a timely manner.” Lamb said these duties form excellent, real world leadership skills.
Lamb said he’s benefited from the experience of making personal contributions such as “bringing Earth to Sky in line with FAA regulations, allowing for larger payloads to be sent to the stratosphere, as well as ensuring the safety of pilots in the Eastern Sierra.” His initiatives have resulted in Earth to Sky becoming the first ballooning group to join a chamber of commerce when it recently joined Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce. “In the near future, I will schedule upcoming speaking events at the Lions, Sunrise Rotary and Bishop Noon Rotary meetings.”
In addition to remaining active in Earth to Sky, student staff members are looking forward to continuing their academic careers this year.
Several anticipate starting their freshman college year this fall. White plans to study engineering at University of California, Berkeley; Johnson, electrical engineering at Stanford University; Gilpin, chemical engineering at UC San Diego; Stephenson, psychology at UC Santa Barbara; Koske-Phillips, business at Babson College in Massachusetts; and Lamb, marine transportation at California Maritime Academy. “I look forward to serving my country and using the skills from Earth to Sky to be a leader in our country’s economy and Navy,” he said.
Molina just completed her first year at UC Santa Cruz, “where she was a student mission controller for NASA’s BARREL project.  BARREL flew balloons over Antarctic to study space weather,” Phillip said.
Staying on at BUHS for 2014-15, Reid will be Earth to Sky’s next CEO; Anderson, will be chief of staff; and Grah will continue as a vice president.
The company also has a few upcoming plans. The next launch is scheduled to take place in mid-July, Phillips said, to send up a space weather probe – a radiation sensor to measure cosmic rays. “We will also be launching a wedding proposal for a new client. He wants to propose to his girlfriend at the edge of space.”

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