The AIM Summer Academies’ high-altitude ballooning class offered an interactive science and technology academy at the Strategic Air & Space Museum near Ashland, Neb.
Students explored what lies beyond Earth and learned how HAB equipment is used in near-space exploration. Students launched, retrieved and viewed a high-altitude balloon in real time. They designed and created model rockets and honed their navigational skills through geocaching and Google Earth activities.
Students were put into small teams and each team was challenged to build a structure using only marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti to see who could create the tallest structure. They also built a container to protect an uncooked egg when dropped from the observation tower at Mahoney State Park.
These activities led to the launching of the high-altitude balloon, which was filled with about 20 pounds of hydrogen, fully equipped with a global positioning satellite tracking system, and spanned nearly 10 feet in diameter when completely filled.
Each team was given a “pod” to attach to the balloon. Teams put items in their pods to conduct different experiments and see how the items placed inside the pods reacted under the changing conditions of increasing altitudes.
Students measured the reactions using video cameras and sensors placed inside each pod. The sensors communicated with a computer program/GPS device that allowed the instructor to capture readings throughout the aircraft’s journey.
The balloon reached more than 67,200 feet. Students tracked the balloon’s journey and followed it by bus, ultimately retrieving their pods from the balloon, which ended up in a cornfield near Nebraska City.
The items in each pod underwent interesting changes, which were discovered and compared by the teams through close observation of the physical items as well as the computerized graphing systems.
-- AIM Newsletter