Noblesville science class launches weather balloons

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Noblesville High School’s aerospace engineering class is learning a new and unique program that gives them a chance to leave the books behind and get some real life experience using weather balloons.

Andrew Wilkins is the teacher behind the balloon. Wilkins secured grants from Toshiba of America and the Noblesville Education Foundation before launching the program that launches weather balloons carrying student designed experiments into the sky.

The first one took off in December, got up to 78,00 feet and was retrieved east of Cincinnati. The second went up on Thursday, got to 97,000 feet and landed near Centerville, Ohio.

“We want to give students experiences where they actually have to apply skills. Like calculating an ascent or descent rate is different than ‘Can you divide a couple of fractions for me on a math sheet,’” Wilkins said.

Wilkins said the class put three cameras in the balloon for the experiment. One shoots towards the horizon, one shoots at the balloon to see what it looks like when it bursts and one points down to see where the balloon will land.

Using GPS, students follow the balloon on its journey. It’s the student’s project from start to finish.

Michael Carmosino, a sophomore, is on the tracking team.

“We got readings from the balloon every 10 seconds. We got its speed, its altitude and which direction it was heading,” Carmosino said.

One of the experiments includes putting film inside one of the pods to measure gamma rays at high altitudes. Another includes playing music during the flight to see at what altitude the sound changes.

“It’s fun. It’s the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It makes me excited,” says Wilkins.

The balloon that launched Thursday will be retrieved this weekend.

Eventually, Wilkins hopes to get the program in the seventh grade classrooms because those students study weather. He says it’s a perfect way to get them interested in science from an early age.

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