James E. Taylor class launches weather balloon
The James E. Taylor High School computer science class launched a weather balloon Saturday, Oct. 20 just west of La Grange.
A maximum altitude of 103,000 feet was reached by the balloon as it traveled a total of 61 miles.
"I started formulating the idea of a team-building project for my class during the summer," teacher Don Adams said in a press release. "Many schools have done this kind of project before so I wanted ours to be a little different. I challenged the students on the first day of school using a Prezi presentation of the recent Mars Rover mission and the resulting reaction of the NASA team at the control center during the actual landing. I asked them to work as a team and send a camera to 100,000 feet to take pictures."
All experiments or electronics sent on the balloon were built by the students. Research conducted by the students also included product selection and legal requirements by the Federal Aviation Administration for launching weather balloons.
One student took the role of project coordinator while the rest divided into teams. The legal team researched compliance with FAA regulations. The payload team designed the payload package to include a container for experiments and cameras. The launch and recovery team developed a checklist to be followed on the day of the launch, selecting the balloon and parachute recovery system. The software team developed tracking software to project the approximate landing point.
While the balloon was in flight, more than 5,000 pictures were taken. An iPhone was used to get live GPS updates on the balloon's location when it landed. Shortly after launch, the software failed, but the balloon was recovered two weeks later by a farmer in his field west of East Bernard.
"All in all, I was very pleased with the entire project," Adams said. "It was an empty feeling when the balloon disappeared but seeing the students reaction when I revealed the recovered balloon to them in class was something I will never forget. The team building aspect of the project accomplished everything and more that I had hoped. This is something we will definitely repeat."
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