Science and Engineering Club members at Downers Grove North High School received “Gold Distinction” from the Regional Illinois Junior Academy of Science competition on March 12, 2016. Sophomores Jake Drobnik, Kevin Griffin, Erik Goes, Zach Busch, Will Cerne, Nick Arand, John Cagney, Nick Ghanayem, John Costello, and Matt Lee were recognized for their Weather Balloon project; they will be heading to the State competition at Milliken University in May.
The students embarked to investigate near space conditions and to gather video footage. To do so, they launched a weather balloon filled with helium into the Stratosphere. They equipped it with a four-pound balloon/payload containing a GPS, two video cameras and a data collector, encased to withstand extreme temperatures and conditions. The balloon was launched from a rural area in Galesburg. After a two and a half hour flight 30 miles above sea level, the equipment landed safely and undamaged in a rural field in Odell. Click here to see the students’ full report.
The students posted video from the flight, which collectively have garnered over 50,000 views:
- Click here to see the Launch
- Click here to see the Weather Balloon in Flight; see balloon pop and parachute deploy at time stop 6:30)
- Click here to see the Landing
“If you were to ask us what our vision is for STEM and for science education, I don’t think any words that we could put down on paper could match these images,” says North High Science Department Chair Mike Heinz. “I don’t mean the images of space, I mean the images of the smiles that the kids had on their faces as they shared their ideas about the project.”
Heinz also commends the students’ parents as well as teachers Jeff Grant and Keith Dvorkin, whose enthusiasm and encouragement laid the foundation for success for the students.
Students report that their experiment is “far from over.” They are already planning a second flight and hope to achieve higher altitudes and durations. They already plan to include a pressure release valve to slowly release helium, which would prevent the balloon from popping and keeping it up for a longer period of time.
The IJAS gives students insight into problems and methods of thinking that are of interest to scientists, encouraging them to make discoveries in science. They recognize a variety of “best of” categories in science, including aerospace, biochemistry, computer science, earth science, environmental science, zoology and others.