Many of us dream of exploring space, but there are not many ways to do so. Although it is difficult to get into deep space, near space is within our grasp. High altitude balloons are released into the stratosphere, generally reaching between 60,000 to 120,000 feet before they burst and their payload is returned to earth by parachute. Modern balloon systems generally contain electronic equipment such as radio transmitters, cameras, and GPS receivers, as well as a variety of scientific instruments. Not only is high altitude ballooning a great way to introduce the electronics and programming skills needed to collect and analyze data from the spacecraft, it provides a fun way to explore scientific concepts from pressure, temperature and volume to cosmic radiation. We have begun offering summer camps to high school students in order to capitalize on the excitement of ballooning to get them interested in physics. In July of 2016, we will offer the five-day camp for the third time, with student numbers increasing from 2 to at least 6 with registrations still coming in. After a brief introduction to atmospheric science, students explore the relationship between rate of ascent, weight, and volume of helium, before using space flight prediction tools to determine potential flight paths. They also learn about a variety of cameras, sensors and data loggers and design and build data collection systems that their group will incorporate into their box for a flight near the end of the camp. Finally, each group prepares and presents a short report on the results of the flight. The numbers of students involved for any statistically significant results to be determined from surveys, but anecdotal data suggests that students’ interest in STEM fields and specifically physics and computer science is enhanced by the HAB camp experience.
How to Cite:
Niederriter, C. F. & Mellema, S. H., (2016) “Getting Students Excited About Science With High Altitude Ballooning”, Academic High Altitude Conference 2016(1). doi: https://doi.org//ahac.9514