A Coke Can in Space?

For Ted Neill (MBA ’13), helping children is more than a one-day volunteer experience. Neill’s passion for helping others has developed into a lifestyle.

He received Georgia State’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Torch of Peace Award for outstanding work with kids in Atlanta and around the world with CARE, an international humanitarian organization fighting to end global poverty.

Ted Neill and his students prepare for launch.

Ted Neill and his students prepare for launch.

Neill had traveled the world helping others through the organization before enrolling in Georgia State’s MBA program to learn about the business side of managing a nonprofit organization. Even as he was headlong into the rigors of his studies, he found time to volunteer teach at South Atlanta Christian Academy.

It was there that he challenged his students to reach for the stars.

“I saw a video on Youtube that was done by a father and his son where they sent an iPhone into space on a balloon,” Neill said. “I found it just mesmerizing and thought it would be something fun to do.”

So Neill and his students in SACA’s science club set out to launch a Coke can to the edge of the atmosphere.

“My hope was that they would be so fascinated and excited they would not even realize how much they were learning,” Neill said.

After the successful launch, Neill said his students took away much more than he thought.

“They learned about atmospheric science, latitude and longitude, math, engineering, electronics, and even a healthy does about communications once the news cameras started showing up and the kids had to articulate their story to news reporters,” he said. “But I think the biggest thing they took away was the confidence that they could so something so, outrageously, ambitious. They truly felt like they could do anything if they put their minds to it. That kind of optimism in young people is truly priceless.”

Administrators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology saw the clip and invited the students to apply to a special summer program for promising minority high school students.

“To say I am proud is an understatement,” Neill said.