News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Mentoring for balloon program

Since 2015, Sisters High School students have been provided opportunities through RISE (Research in Sisters Environments) to practice science in a real- world setting, and apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom to novel problems. The work is driven by student and mentor collaboration, through which many students have gained collaborative research experience.

This year’s SHS RISE Chemistry balloon launch highlighted the importance of teamwork and research in all of the experiments.

Last week, the class launched two balloons, the first reached about 90,700 feet (27,645 meters) into the stratosphere, and the second ascended 91,079 feet (27,761 meters). 

For the past two years, the SHS RISE launches have led to collaboration with 8th graders at the Warm Springs K-8 Academy. Last Thursday, May 23, five Sisters chemistry students mentored Warm Springs 8th graders in launching their very own stratospheric weather balloon launch from the Warm Springs Academy.

The launch was orchestrated through the RISE Program and funded by a grant from Batelle. Both projects were supported by Steven Peterzen of ISTAR, who guided the Sisters High School students in mentoring the Warm Springs students. The students learned about the durability of stratospheric weather balloons, the importance of the data collected, and how science and engineering can be applied outside of school. 

With the guidance of science teacher Karen Young, the 8th grade students explored a wide array of food-based science experiments, including skittles, marshmallows, and lunch meat that they sent up on the payload.

The Warm Springs balloon rose 85,636 feet (26,102 meters) up into the stratosphere, and like the two SHS balloons launched the previous week, flew a little over two hours from its launch to eventual landing.

 In order to track and find the balloons, multiple technologies were employed. GPS SPOT trackers attached to the payload sent location signals every six minutes that the students followed on an app. An APRS radio antenna was suspended from the parachute along the flight train and transmitted location, temperature, pressure, speed, and altitude data every minute. The students also placed sound alarms on the payload to help locate it on the ground. They had to use problem solving skills and embrace adventure to find the balloon once it descended. 

Troy Capps, Warm Springs Academy Assistant Principal, accompanied three eighth grade students and a team of five SHS students with SHS science teacher Rima Givot to track and recover the balloon after it landed in a juniper forest southeast of Grizzly Mountain, near Prineville.

Jean-Pierre Dedieu, PhD, retired chief meteorologist of CNES from France, provided flight trajectory predictions for both the Warm Springs and Sisters Eagle Airport launches that supported the recovery efforts with their accuracy, and gave the weather team students, who had been mentored by retired meteorologist Ron Thorkildson of Sisters, a chance to compare their prediction to a professional one.

“The connection with Pierre has integrated an international component and added a professional perspective to the project,” said Givot.

 

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