Armed with a weather balloon, cameras, and weeks of preparation in scientific theory, atmospheric thermodynamics students literally explored the atmosphere.
Using a weather balloon gives students in Jill Coleman’s classes a distinct opportunity for research and exploration. “Students can grow accustomed to relying on computers to calculate data for them. When they get out into the workforce, they will need to have these skills,” says Coleman, assistant professor of geography.
Students secure the camera to the weather balloon.
The equipment on the balloon gathers data on the temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed, and the balloon’s height.
“We took the pod, which was a small box, and put the video camera in there,” says meteorology student Mandy Ward, MS nursing 2009. “The camera needed to be in the box so moisture couldn’t get in. There was a hole that the lens could look through. We strapped it in and tied the pods together. Then we launched it.”
As researchers tracked and followed the balloon on the ground by car, they downloaded the data relevant to their research.
Students prepare the weather balloon to launch. It traveled up to 100,000 feet high and landed in Ohio.
Photograph from the weather balloon in flight.
Watch a student-made video of their experiences.
An auspicious follow-on joint effort by Ball State and Taylor University has been funded by the National Science Foundation. The Ball State contribution to the project is under the direction of Melissa Mitchell of the Department of Biology and involves colleagues Sheryl Stump and Kay Roebuck of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, together with the advising of Jill Colemen. Implementation of high altitude ballooning into undergraduate education classes (future K-12 teachers) is underway. Students in science and mathematics methods classes will produce 7th and 8th grade science and math lessons at Ball State and 6th grade lessons at Taylor. The undergraduate science and math students will hear about high altitude research platform systems and the design of appropriate experiments for elementary and secondary school students; they will learn about the accompanying launch, retrieval, and data analysis; Ball State students will participate in curricular field testing in Burris Laboratory School classrooms so that they will understand what goes into appropriate lesson planning in experiments and data analysis for kids. Students preparing to be teachers will emerge from their high altitude balloon experience better prepared to lead their future students in addressing basic questions about the Earth’s atmosphere and the life that it supports. The sky is the limit for learning for future elementary and middle school students in their charge.
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