sun poked through misty clouds over Springville GI Middle School, and the cool,
blustery wind whipped at the faces of numerous eighth graders who were anxiously
awaiting the morning's main event.
Project team members gathered at
the side of the building to witness the first test of our stratosphere balloon.
audience giggled and whispered with anticipation and excitement as we waited for
the foam carton and parachute to be tossed off of the roof. This was just
a simple examination to test the efficiency of the parachute and carton; however,
it was a crucial step towards achieving success when the balloon was finally launched
into the stratosphere.
Custodian Mr. Vacinek and counselor Mr. Aroune stood
atop the roof of the school and the crowd enthusiastically hollered a countdown. At
"ZERO!" the capsule was released into the air and drifted towards the
ground, the vivid crimson parachute billowing above it.
around the carton as it met the ground, and satisfaction was unanimous-things
were going just as planned. "I feel that it's a great accomplishment
for our school and our team," said student Matt Lightcap, a hardworking participant
in the quest for stratospheric victory.
The balloon was dropped from the
roof a total of three times, and all proved that the parachute was operating correctly
and the carton was secure.
This project was started as a Roosevelt team
project, as part of the newly implemented Springville GI Middle School "Student
Enrichment Program" to involve students in fun and active learning.
project was inspired by a similar experiment conducted at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology. At MIT, a student-constructed balloon was sent up into the
uppermost part of the stratosphere, about seventeen and a half miles high. A
camera attached to the craft was able to photograph its journey, and the images
that were captured were sincerely breath taking.
The project was student
operated and was a group effort in every form, involving several teams of students
assigned to perfect certain aspects of the balloon. Over forty students,
supervised by various teachers and staff, put their minds together and worked
hard to ensure that their contribution was the best it could possibly be. Some
of the fields of study necessary for success included camera, capsule, weather/trajectory,
video, GPS, and technology programming.
Then, on Wednesday, November 18,
the finished product was finally launched into the stratosphere. Anxious
students and faculty buzzed with excitement and the balloon was released quickly
into the air and floated away. Hopes were high, and the wait began.
balloon was sent into the air at about 8:45 in the morning, and finally retrieved
around 1:10 in the afternoon. Staff members Mr. Karb, Mr. Higgins, and Mr.
Reese ventured into a soybean field in Byron, NY to at last reclaim the balloon. They
responded with whoops of joy as they laid eyes upon the vibrant red parachute
resting on the ground, virtually unharmed.
The camera was still operating
perfectly, and had taken over 2,000 photos. Of those 2,000 photos, over 1,500
of them were pristine and revealed incredible and breath-taking images of our
Earth. It went extremely well, and the project's success was even thought
to be greater than MIT's. Springville is also the first middle school in
the country to pursue this awesome feat.
The balloon crafted by these students
was not quite like your average birthday party decoration! The construction
had to be precise, and many preparations and precautions were also necessary. The
balloon was inflated with helium to a five foot diameter, and the parachute was
also very large. The capsule, one of the most crucial parts, was a Styrofoam
box and held all of the technology for obtaining the proof.
foam substance applied inside cushioned the camera and GPS cell phone. Hand
warmers and lithium batteries were pressed against the electronic devices to help
them withstand the cold of the stratosphere. A square of aluminum foil was placed
in the capsule as well, so that it would appear on radar.
was programmed to take photographs every six seconds. Wind currents
and weather were tracked daily to predict where the balloon would land so that
it could be found and brought back. Finally, the FAA had to be contacted
to approve the design and give permission for the flight.
the launch, I interviewed our teacher facilitators who were overseeing the creation
of the project. Mr. Joe Karb, eighth grade social studies teacher, said that the
project was a "truly interesting pursuit" and that even if the balloon
"was not completely successful after the launch, its creation process will
have been a valuable learning experience," including strengthening the execution
of the scientific method, and building teamwork skills.
He was also
thrilled to have students working with the technology, including digital cameras
and the GPS system. Mr. Steve Reese, eighth grade science teacher and co-facilitator,
voiced that he was very optimistic and that everyone would just have to "see
how it went!"
Both teachers agreed that throughout the entire
duration of the project, there was definitely a high energy level among all students