Students Launch Huge Balloon Into Sky

Under sunny skies Thursday, Nipmuc Regional High School prepared to launch a large balloon, with cargo.

Engineering students came up with a plan to carry a small box 28,000 feet above central Massachusetts.

Inside that box were several ping pong balls loaded with everyday objects.

Physics students devised experiments to see how things like popcorn kernels react to the atmosphere.

"We hope that because of the decrease in pressure and the temperature changes in space that the popcorn kernels end up popping," said one of the students.

Inside another ping pong ball was a bouncy ball.

"We bounced it before it went up, and when it comes back down, we think it's going to be deformed or the temperature will impact the inside of the ball so it bounces less, or doesn't bounce at all," explained the young man who was involved in that experiment.

Like many science experiments, this Thursday morning launch in Upton didn’t go totally as planned.

"Right now, it appears we didn't have enough helium, so we're holding it for now," student Drew Nelson said while waiting for the launch.

The setback was minor for this project, which involved weeks of planning.

Students not only focused on science, but logistics. They had to craft a device to make the balloon visible to authorities.

"It basically just had to reflect a radar from any angle," student John Hartt explained, showing the aluminum foil-coated device.

Finally — after the delay — the big moment arrived and the balloon soared into the sky.

"Getting to go outside, and being able to test out an idea we came up with ourselves, is a lot more involved, so it's been a great experience," said one student, positively reacting to the out-of-classroom experience.

The balloon's travels were tracked via GPS until it landed later in the day.

"The kids feel like they were empowered, that the learning was relevant, and we're trying to make school more like life here," said David Quinn, the Director of Technology and Integration.

The students will now record what happened in their experiment, and prepare reports on their findings.

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