A Glimpse From 82,000 Feet – Kids and a Weather Balloon!

Finding Your Passion In Life

One of my main passions in life is feeding the mind of my son. As a father, I have been able to rediscover a sense of wonder in learning new things. The opportunity to see the world again through your child’s eyes is truly wonderful; I know many of you reading this would agree.

For the past few years, we have been involved with a group of families that share a common interest in STEM-based activities for their kids. At first, I was a participant in the group and over the years was lucky to become the co-leader. It goes without saying; this is a rewarding experience for me. It can be a time-consuming endeavor, but I fortunately work for a company that places a high value on work/life balance.

Planning Our Project

We have bi-weekly meetings to cover topics with the kids that range from soldering to circuitry, robotics to app development, and even movie making to costume design. Earlier this year, my friend and the other co-leader of the group, Shawn, had the great idea to build a high altitude balloon (HAB) (also referred to as a weather balloon) with the group.

The kids met for a few weeks to plan the event. They needed to decide and build a number of Arduino-based sensors that would go up with the balloon. A cargo area had to be configured to hold all pieces of the hardware we were sending up, which also included a GoPro camera. And, they needed to work with the mentors to build a radar deflector that fit FAA safety guidelines for the launch.

We planned the launch day based on output from weather data on wind patterns and estimated travel path and distance. The information we had read stated that chances of recovery for your equipment may be as low as 50%, and we definitely wanted not only the data back, but also our GoPro!

Launch Day!

Launch day came and excitement was palpable; though I think the parents and mentors were just as excited as the kids involved! Honestly, wouldn’t you be? We were attempting something incredible, something I remember only hearing about scientists and maybe even NASA doing when I was growing up! As we went through final assembly, equipment check, and filled the balloon with helium, everyone involved was smiling ear to ear. The kids got to do a final countdown as we were about to release.

Launch time came and we sent off our hard work, with our fingers crossed!