Poster Presentation

Eclipse Ballooning STEM Outreach for Elementary, Middle, and High School Education

  • Peter Henson (University of North Dakota)
  • Fnu Anamika (University of North Dakota)
  • Denise Buckner (University of North Dakota)
  • Marissa E. Saad (University of North Dakota)
  • Caitlin Nolby (University of North Dakota)


To promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education through ballooning, the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium (NDSGC) organizes an annual Near-Space Balloon Competition (NSBC) for students in grades 6–12. Students across the state of North Dakota have the opportunity to launch experiments into a near- space environment. The students learn how to write proposals, design payloads, and analyze data. They learn through an active, inquiry-based style that will prepare them for real-world engineering and critical thinking jobs. In 2016, NSBC proposed Great American Eclipse as the theme for the competition, thus the students were focused on designing heliocentric payloads. To promote STEM education to students of all ages, North Dakota Atmospheric and Educational Student Initiated Research (ND-AESIR) team partnered with third grade classes in a North Dakota tribal community for a balloon launch during the 2017 total solar eclipse. Students submitted ping pong balls, which were filled with items of personal and cultural significance. The initiative allowed students to be involved in a space mission and educate them about space. ND-AESIR flew the ping pong balls as a secondary payload during the total solar eclipse from Rexburg, Idaho. After the successful launch and retrieval of the payloads, the ping pong balls were returned to the students, who can now say that their treasured items have touched near space! These two outreach projects took advantage of the opportunity to focus on a rare astronomical event, providing an unique venue to inspire the students towards STEM involvement.

How to Cite:

Henson, P., Anamika, F., Buckner, D., Saad, M. E. & Nolby, C., (2017) “Eclipse Ballooning STEM Outreach for Elementary, Middle, and High School Education”, Academic High Altitude Conference 2017(1). doi:



Published on
27 Oct 2017