Tooele Students Send Balloon to Nearly 100,000 Feet
TOOELE, Utah – A group of Tooele high school students spent their Saturday launching a balloon into the stratosphere, gathering data, and tracking it to where it landed.
Students from several high schools are in the LINUX class taught by Clint Thomsen at the Tooele Community Learning Center. They spent the semester learning to code scripts to use in the experiment. They programmed a miniature Raspberry Pi computer to send telemetry data from a capsule attached to a helium balloon. Saturday, they drove to Cherry Creek, Idaho to launch the balloon.
“It doesn’t just slowly float up, it shoots way up in the sky pretty quickly,” said senior James Quist.
The balloon shot skyward with the capsule sending back data to the students on the ground. Junior Ruth BlomQuist worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to find the right kind of airspace to launch the balloon. She also helped track the capsule as they chased it in a school bus.
“We just had people out the windows with little antennas trying to figure out where it was!” she said.
The balloon climbed to 96,600 feet. A camera on the capsule showed video of the entire Great Salt Lake and much of Northern Utah. After 80 minutes of flight, the balloon burst and the capsule came back to the ground under a parachute.
“When it came down, it was going really fast and we were worried that the parachute didn’t open all the way or something was wrong,” BlomQuist said.
The balloon had interfered with the parachute, but the capsule survived the fall. The students found it in a backyard in Garland, Utah.
This is the fourth year Thomsen’s class has performed the experiment. The first two years, the groups never found the capsule after it fell back to Earth. Thomsen said the students will learn lessons the next group can apply.
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