On Friday 4th May, pupils in S. Anselm’s College launched their own special weather balloon. Thanks to the hard work of our STEM Learning Ambassador, Mr McCloud and sponsorship from Caudwell and Co, we were able to assemble the required kit to launch a large high altitude helium balloon into the atmosphere with a GPS and telemetry tracker, a data logger and two cameras on board.
Each team member had made important contributions in preparation for the launch day, including researching the equipment and tracking systems, checking legal requirements and restrictions, programming the data logger, using the flight predictor, creating the project’s website and sourcing sponsorship.
On the day, six members of the team were present to send the balloon off. The launch went almost faultlessly, thanks to clear instructions and fabulous teamwork. A few small challenges, such as access to the top field and placing antennae on the top of the minibus, were easily resolved on the way.
As the balloon took off, we boarded the minibus and using our tracking equipment, chased it to its place of landing. On the way, pupils were able to follow the balloon’s progress and see live pictures taken by the payload’s cameras. Everyone was particularly excited to see the balloon reach an altitude of 100 000 feet or 30 000 metres – which is three times the altitude reached by a transatlantic jet.
The landing site turned out to be equally perfect: a few miles south of Nottingham, away from big roads and built up areas.
The day promised to finish as perfectly as it started. However, on arrival to the landing site, we discovered the payload and the parachute stuck in the top of a tall tree, almost 30m above the ground. Three further days and two trips to the landing site, the best technique of the payload retrieval was determined, and the helium balloon payload was taken down with the help of … three more helium balloons! Mission accomplished!!