On Wednesday, March 15th, students in Collegiate Academy’s Honors Physics class shared their innovative weather balloon project with first, third, and sixth graders. Senior Rachel Olsen explained how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills allow students to do amazing things and encouraged our younger Gators to use STEM skills to explore the world around them!
Fellow Honors Physics students Sam Slagle, Andrew Bush, and Moses Waithaka each shared different aspects of the project team’s plan to launch the weather balloon into the stratosphere while our younger students looked on with excitement. Students heard about some of the technology behind the project and one lucky Gator got hands-on interaction with the drone that will be remotely piloted back to Earth by the project team.
The team plans to launch the weather balloon in early April, depending on weather conditions, from a site in Emporia, Virginia. The 1200 gram weather balloon will be inflated with helium and make its ascent while carrying a custom made drone which has been adorned with Gator artwork by GCA student Savannah Williams and outfitted with two data-collecting cameras. The weather balloon will collect data as it carries the drone approximately 100,000 feet before succumbing to pressure and falling back to Earth, at which point the team will begin remotely piloting the drone. Throughout the presentation, our Physics students took questions from their younger schoolmates, including one from a third grader who asked, “Won’t the balloon burn up in outer space?”
Students learned how the project team had to take into account many variables such as weight limitations, potential atmospheric conditions, sourcing of power, and budgetary constraints to make this launch possible. Younger students were very interested in how the drone will be piloted remotely during its descent back to Earth and our Honors Physics students patiently answered many questions, explaining how the project is expected to play out.
GCA’s unique model of having four Academies, serving students from Preschool through Twelfth grade, allows our younger students opportunities to be inspired by and mentored by their older schoolmates, while providing our older students opportunities to grow as future leaders.
Thank you to Mr. Smallman and the Honors Physics class for sharing this exciting project with the school!