Earth from a High Altitude Balloon

High Altitude Balloon Project Update #2 – STEM Learning

We have been working with teachers from several local schools to create a STEM learning curriculum to help the students involved in our HAB project learn about the science associated with our High Altitude Balloon (HAB) Project.

STEM Learning - Merrimack High School HAB Project Students
Merrimack High School HAB Project Students and their Teacher

Our club’s HAB team has prepared materials for and delivered a series of five classroom sessions to each group of students. These sessions have included material on the Atmosphere, the Physics of HAB Flight, and the Radio Technologies (APRS and GPS) used on the HAB.

STEM Learning - Bishop-Guertin High School HAB Project Students
Bishop-Guertin High School HAB Project Students and their Teachers

We have also shared this material with a group of students who are not part of the two high schools that we are working with on the HAB project.

STEM Learning - Additional HAB Project Students
Additional HAB Project Students, Parents, and Club HAB Team Members

Altogether, we have 13 students involved in our HAB project. The students and their teachers have given us high marks for the STEM learning aspect of the project to date. Here is a sample of the feedback that we have received from the faculty members at the schools who are involved in the project:

I think you did a great job today.  I was very impressed with your presentation, the clarity of the material you presented to the students and how well organized your power point was: Simple and to the point.  Thank you so much for taking the time to come. … I am excited to see and hear more next week.  It is evident that you have a true passion for it and that is conveyed to the students.

Once again,  Thank you for the thought-provoking presentation.  The students left excited to see your radio station at open house and eager to launch the HAB!
We got together to assemble and test the HAB platform a few weeks back. We did this to ensure that all of the components worked as intended and to determine the actual weight of the platform so we could estimate the HAB’s performance and flight path.
STEM Learning - HAB Flight Platform
HAB Flight Platform

The platform includes GPS receivers, a flight computer to record location, speed and atmospheric temperature and pressure data, a 2M APRS transmitter to send telemetry data to the ground during the HAB’s flight, and two GoPro video cameras to record video during the flight. All of these systems are working well and the HAB platform is ready for flight. We have also secured the required Helium for our launch.

STEM Learning - Balloon Performance Calculator
Balloon Performance Calculator

We have introduced the students to online calculators which they have used to predict the performance of our HAB. The calculator shown above was used to estimate the HAB’s maximum altitude (31,290 m or about 102,600 ft) and how much Helium we will need for the flight.

STEM Learning - Jetstream Forecast
Jetstream Forecast

The students also learned about the various layers in the atmosphere and how the conditions there will affect the flight path of our HAB.

STEM Learning - HAB Flight Path Prediction
HAB Flight Path Prediction

We have helped the students use another online calculator which is used to predict our HAB’s flight path. These predictions are only valid about 5 days in advance of the flight and the flight path varies considerably based upon the daily changes in Jetstream conditions. As you can see from the prediction above, we will need to select a launch location in western Vermont or Massachusetts to avoid the risk of our HAB landing in the ocean.

We will be gathering all of the students together for an HAB and Amateur Radio Open House before our launch. The open house activities will include some hands-on work with the flight computer and radio equipment on our HAB, a chance to Get On The Air, learn about Amateur Radio Satellites, and participate in a Fox Hunt.

We are planning to launch our HAB in May from a location near Bennington, Vt. It will be possible to track the HAB while it is in flight via this link to APRS.fi.

We’d like to thank all of our donors for providing us with the funding for our HAB project. Also, a special thanks to all of our club members who have worked on the project and the preparation and delivery of the STEM classroom materials:

We are all looking forward to the Launch!

Fred, AB1OC

Hashtag: #N1FDHAB

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