It’s really amazing what young people can do….IF you give them the right leadership and the opportunities. Bill Richardson, N5VEI, is a science teacher at Old Towne Middle School in Ridgeland, MS. He’s an avid ham (on the Board of the Jackson ARC) and the faculty sponsor of the Science and Technology Club at his school. His Club members do robotics and amateur radio kind of things, among other science and tech stuff. I ran into Bill at the Capital City Hamfest this past January at the Jackson Trade Mart, with his kids in tow. He was selling some things at a table to raise money for a near-space weather balloon launch by the Titans (school mascot). I thought to myself: what would I have done for a science teacher like this when I was in the eighth grade? To borrow a Harry Carey phrase, Holy Cow! Bill told me that he needed some assistance by Mississippi State University’s Engineering College but was unsure about how to approach them. Since I’m a Professor Emeritus, I thought, hey this is something I can take on! President Mark Keenum was very receptive to learning of this opportunity for MSU to promote science and technology among middle school kids…so off the Bulldogs went!
Last Saturday, I attended the launch of this weather balloon project, called Titans in Space. It was recorded by school officials and the guys from Amateur Logic TV (who live in the area). I took my iPhone 4 camera and took a few pics and movie clips. The launch went very well and the payload included redundant systems for balloon telemetry, tracking, and scientific experiments designed by the students. They had 2M simplex, APRS, and HF tracking on board. Based upon some simulation runs, Bill N5VEI guessed that it would land somewhere in western Alabama unless something went very different. There was an air show a the Meridian MS Naval Air Station that day so that was a concern but he had filed an FAA permit request so they would have the “Titans” balloon in their tracking database. No UFO sitings here!
The on-board APRS system gave the three tracking vehicles sent out for the recovery operation fairly easy access to the remains of the Titan Balloon payload. The balloon itself burst, as planned, at an altitude of over 94,000 feet above the Earth and parachuted back to the ground. It was located near Livingston, AL. The predicted flight path and return location was within 25 miles of the actual location as I am told. Here’s a picture visualizing the flight path, as created by Bob Bullock, K5RWB.
The student scientists are now beginning to assemble and study the results of both the flight and the science experiments on the payload. For instance, since water boils in a vacuum, a test to see if kernels of corn would “pop” while in a vacuum provided by near-space altitude was tested. The Club website will give details about these results; see http://www.madison-schools.com/18912081810027520/site/default.asp.
See the following video that I shot and edited regarding the staging and launch of the Titans in Space baloon:
Here’s one of several hundred pictures taken by the on-board camera, sent to me by Bill N5VEI. Viva la amateur radio!