Physics Lesson from 75,000 Feet

By SpaceRef Editor
April 19, 2011
Filed under
Physics Lesson from 75,000 Feet

Physics teachers from Bergen County Technical High School – Paramus campus, NJ, along with Project Aether’s Ben Longmier (www.ProjectAether.org), hold a physics lesson from 75,000 ft (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WD4-E8bg4s). With coordination from the FAA, the high school student high altitude weather balloon was released from the NASCAR Pocono Raceway on Apr 8 at 11:15am.

The balloon climbed to ~20,000 ft above the Pocono Raceway before entering a cloud deck, capturing impressive HD video of the students and the raceway below. The balloon punched through the overcast skies, capturing video of high altitude hail, and burst at 75,000 ft above Northern NJ, coming to a soft landing under parachute ~10 miles West of the Atlantic. The NJ students were following the live progress of the balloon at www.ProjectAether.org/tracking.html from their smart phones on the bus ride back to Paramus NJ, and were helping to give physics teachers directions to the landing location.

Some of the students told us that they were so excited about the upcoming launch that they were unable to fall asleep the night before the launch. Upon returning the recovered balloon payload to the NJ high school, students crowded around to touch the payload and two Pocono Raceway NASCAR hotwheels cars that that had on the payload and had “been to the edge of space.” At least one of the cars will be on permanent display in the main hallway of the high school.

Physics teacher Liz Henriquez leads the effort at Bergen Co, and the school was recently notified by the NASA Johnson Space Center that they had been accepted to fly onboard NASA’s Microgravity aircraft to teach about helium balloon buoyancy in different gravity environments. The effort will combine concepts from the Apr 8th high altitude balloon launch on Earth and will also demonstrate how helium balloons will behave in other gravity environments on other moons and atmospheres beyond the Earth (i.e. Titan).

I will serve as a NASA mentor during the ZeroG flights in late June, assisting the teacher group through the the design and safety requirements for the NASA flight. The students from Bergen Tech – Paramus High School will help in designing and constructing the ZeroG payload before the semester ends. One of the NASCAR hotwheels will be re-flown on the ZeroG flight.



Photos and video from the launch

Bergen County Technical High School – Paramus campus, NJ
Bergen County Balloon page

Local ch16 news coverage and interview

Pocono Record regarding the balloon flight

Benjamin Longmier, Ph.D.
Adjunct Faculty
Physics Department
University of Houston

SpaceRef staff editor.