Middle school students reach to the stratosphere

CALEDONIA, Mich. (WOOO) — Students in Caledonia huddled together on one of the coldest days of May to launch a weather balloon into the stratosphere, all in the name of science.

Kraft Meadows Middle School Board Member Chris Behm led the project. He got students heavily involved. Out of the entire school a small group of kids interested in math, engineering, technology and science were selected to coordinate a successful launch to space.

Sixth-grader Joe Geglio says he loves to build and design things. He has built a bike rack and a furnace that melts aluminum on his own. Teachers selected him as one of the few to help with the launch.

Students preparing for the balloon launch.

“I knew it would explore the kind of science that I like and engineering and then also problem solving,” said Geglio.

Sixth-grader Dilyn Pratt says she is most excited to see the GoPro footage from the two cameras hidden snugly inside the container carried by the balloon.

Students met around five times before the launch with Behm to be sure they were on track for a successful launch.

“I had one group that did strictly problem solving, one group that did a lot of math equations for me, and then another group that did like a lot of the science aspect, the weather aspect of it,” said Behm.

The entire school came out to watch the launch of the first-ever weather balloon on it’s way up from Kraft Meadows Middle. After a hearty countdown, the balloon did not get enough lift. It flew close to the ground, but not high in the sky. Students ran after it to try again, realizing they needed even more buoyancy to carry the load to space. The first launch was an excellent learning experience in physics.

The stratosphere as seen from the balloon.

The second launch of the balloon was immediately successful, climbing to a height of 76,350 feet, well into the stratosphere.

The sensors carried by the weather balloon recorded everything from wind, to pressure, to altitude to temperature on the entire journey. Students directly involved in the project along with kids who came just to watch, will be able to match the data with the footage over West Michigan to cement a science lesson that may otherwise be hard to grasp.

Behm and his father retrieved the balloon. GPS sensors were included in the load for easy retreival. At the surface the balloon was carried west by strong east winds before meandering over towards flint with the normal flow of the atmosphere.

Flight track of the weather balloon launched from Caledonia Friday, May 19th

The successful launch means a feature project is likely.

“I think every year we do it we’ll just learn more and more from it,” said Behm.