Balloon Launch

Operation Sky High

Kerry Browne, Physics, Laszlo Bardos, Engineering, Rivendell Academy

Students launched a weather balloon carrying a camera and scientific instruments to measure atmospheric temperature, pressure and humidity as the balloon rose to 105,000 ft. By designing, building and using the balloon and instrument package, students were able to explore how Earth’s atmosphere changes with elevation.

To make this project happen, students obtained a grant to purchase supplies, partnered with a local radio club, and coordinated their flight plan with the FAA. They built a flight computer and a housing for the instrumentation. After launching the balloon, they tracked it as it flew across New Hampshire and into Maine. They then analyzed the video and data collected during the flight.

Over the course of the project, students built a website, documenting the process of designing, testing and launching the balloon and prepared a how-to-guide for future students who might want to launch a balloon of their own.

Teacher Reflection

Deciding to do this project was frightening for us as teachers since we had never done anything like this before. I was impressed by the students’ engagement in many aspects of this project, in particular the grant writing and coming together to make the launch happen right at the end of school. Throughout the process they made and revised their designs to overcome natural obstacles, many of which they didn’t even know were a problem prior to starting the project.

Going Forward

A group of younger students was so inspired that they have decided to continue this project as part of the honors chemistry course. They will be collecting more atmospheric data and using it to enhance the weather unit in chemistry class.