Barrie School's first High Altitude Balloon (HAB) Project strove to answer the question, "How can we do science in the stratosphere, and what does it take to get there?"
To tackle this project, our 9th graders used their creativity, research skills, and teamwork to design experiments, engineer a capsule to carry their scientific “payload,” and return it safely to the earth. To accomplish this, the students identified and tackled a series of engineering challenges involving overall design, instrumentation, the impacts of extreme temperatures and pressures, and payload recovery.
Our students also navigated the labyrinth of government regulations surrounding unmanned aircraft launches--all the while calculating a launch and return trajectory to avoid the airspace of the DC metro area, the Presidential retreat at Camp David, and other restricted airspace. Student teams corresponded with the FAA, designed and tested aerodynamic properties of payloads, built radar reflectors, ran control experiments, and much more.
Based on extensive student discussion and debate, our final experimental payload included the following sensors:
- GPS tracker
- Air pressure
- Ionizing radiation (Geiger Counter to measure cosmic rays in space)
- GoPro Hero 5 camera
- YI 360 camera
- Bubble Wrap effectiveness - to test whether common packing materials would work in the stratosphere
- Egg survivability to determine whether a raw egg would break/cook from the environmental conditions at high altitude
- Plant survivability - unprotected carrot shoots were sent up planted in test tubes filled with soil
- Ice Cream production - students created a simple ice cream maker, in order to observe whether ice cream could form at high altitude
- Phase changes - various liquids were sent up to note potential phase changes at various altitudes
While not all experiments were successful due to our cameras cutting out early, Barrie's first HAB launch was a significant achievement! The balloon reached an altitude of 92,000 ft. above sea level, and broadcasted sensor data throughout its flight. Next year's 9th graders will learn from the successes and challenges of our first launch, and design their own set of experiments and payloads to fly next spring!