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Milford High School students launch weather balloon to see space, temperature changes

A Snapshot Of The Ohio River As Seen From An Altitude Of 102,000 Feet

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - "To see students fully immersed in a project, that's #1," said Peter Lepper, a teacher at Great Oaks and Milford High School.

Students at Milford High School have spent weeks working to build a high-altitude balloon to understand temperature changes with altitude.

Lepper said, "I thought it would be a perfect fit for aerospace engineering. We're studying lapse rate. I could give them a worksheet on it, or I could give them a PowerPoint. It's a lot better to be fully engaged in a lesson."

Building the balloon meant extensive planning and coordination.

"When you're working on a large project, you can't do it all yourself, so you had a parachute team, a balloon team, helium team, and even knot-tying team. All of those systems have to come together."

By working with each other, students learned valuable science, engineering, and leadership skills.

"You're going to be working with engineers that are focused in their own field, so we each had a subsystem of the overall project. We all had to do our own separate things and communicate so that it could all fit together," explained Daniel Wilson, a senior at Milford High School.

William Ayers, a senior at Milford High School, said, "I learned a lot about how radio systems work and just a lot of the protocol that goes into sending that high in the air."

"I feel like it helped me with the leadership side as well as the learning side," said Drake Doran, a senior at Milford High School

On May 8th, the balloon was filled with helium, the temperature sensor, cameras, and GPS sensors were attached, and the balloon was launched into the sky. The balloon traveled through the troposphere and into the stratosphere, where the onboard camera sampled the curvature of the Earth and rivers chiseling through the Ohio Valley. At 102,000 feet, the camera captured the balloon exploding. The payload then fell tens of thousands of feet until settling in eastern Kentucky trees. Mr. Lepper was proud of his students for not just building, launching, retrieving, and reviewing data collected by the balloon, but for embracing the project.

"It's really all about the kids. It's fun to watch a balloon, but it's much more fun to see students engaged the way they were," said Leeper.

As students explore temperature changes in the atmosphere, Lepper is already planning for another launch next year.

Lepper explained, "We want to add a secondary payload and partner with elementary schools and junior high schools to see what happens to things in microgravity and film that sort of experiment."

Duke Energy funded the project, including some of the photos and videos used in this story, that Leeper submitted through through donorschoose.org. More information on the project can be found here: https://www.donorschoose.org/donors/proposal.html?id=2317964

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