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Last week’s Bailey Elementary space balloon project returned several images from Earth’s stratosphere, including this shot of planet Earth. (Submitted image)

Woodbury grade schoolers' science project reaches stratosphere

News Woodbury,Minnesota 55125
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Woodbury grade schoolers' science project reaches stratosphere
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

Fourth graders in Bailey Elementary’s Gateway, gifted and talented, program experienced first-hand what the stratosphere looks like.

On May 16, students launched a near-space balloon 105,000 feet up into the atmosphere to collect data and capture photographs and video.

“They can see the curve of the earth and see the layers of the atmosphere,” said Colleen Redmond, fourth grade Gateway teacher. “When else do you get to personally have something go up that you designed and come back down.”

A gifted group

Redmond said she first came up with the idea for the project after reading an article in Popular Science magazine about a group of fifth grade students who were able to send a balloon up into the atmosphere.

“That whole idea wasn’t really on my radar,” she said. “But when I saw that they had done it and saw that kids were actually making it happen, it really seemed like it had great possibilities.”

Redmond said she felt that the space balloon project was a great opportunity for her Gateway students because it provided them an additional creative and intellectual outlet.

“It gives students in a gifted program a chance to do something that really pushes their abilities,” she said. “This group of students is just a really great, inventive group that needed some kind of outlet to do something that was different than what they had done before.”

Redmond contacted Paul Kaup, a pilot with Southwest Airlines who assisted with the balloon featured in the article, about how to approach a project like this.

Kaup, who is part of the STEM+C (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Plus Creativity) program, actually sent Redmond a booklet of information detailing how to accomplish a project of this nature.

Studying space

For three weeks Redmond’s students studied the many facets of the project – layers of the universe, wave length and universal time – before actually beginning on the design and construction of their space balloon.

The space balloon that was sent up last week featured a “gondola,” or Styrofoam cooler, a helium-filled weather balloon and parachute.

Within the gondola was a GPS system, a still camera, a video camera and a data logger, which recorded temperatures, altitudes, atmospheric pressure and ascent and descent rates.

Students launched the balloon at roughly 11:10 a.m. on Friday after two attempts.

The balloon continued its ascent before the balloon burst, because of the altitude, after which time it began its descent with the help of the parachute.

The balloon touched down at 3:30 p.m. just southeast of Cannon Falls, Minn., on a dirt road.

Two school volunteers collected the balloon from its final destination thanks to the GPS.

Redmond said she hopes to be able to offer the space balloon project again next year.

“It incorporates so many of those STEM ideas,” she said, “but it also allows for a large amount of creativity too.

“It allows them to be very creative with what they’re doing.”  

Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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