Engineering Class Launches into the Stratosphere High Altitude Balloon Flight a Success

Engineering Class Launches into the Stratosphere High Altitude Balloon Flight a Success
Engineering Class Launches into the Stratosphere High Altitude Balloon Flight a Success

 It’s quite a project when you have technical advisors from the Air Force, the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And that’s exactly the group of consultants that students in the Introduction to Engineering Design class interacted with to plan their recent high altitude balloon launch.

As part of the Butler Tech cclass offered at Lakota East Freshman Campus, the students researched, designed prototypes and built the balloon that was rated for 100,000 feet altitude, filled with helium to provide sufficient lift into the atmosphere. The balloon was fitted with a payload of HAM radio equipment and a GPS tracker that allowed students to follow the balloon’s path. There was also a six-foot diameter parachute and camera. 

To prepare for the launch, several advisors from Wright Patterson Air Force Base met with the students to discuss the effects of high altitude on different objects. They also provided the students with guidance during the assembly and final preparations. Another mentor from the NOAA led the students through various computer applications involved in predicting the balloon’s flightpath. 

During the May 13 launch, the balloon successfully made it over 101,000 feet and the flight traveled a distance of approximately 80 miles. The balloon and payload were retrieved from a farm field about 11 miles southeast of Washington Court House, Ohio.  The flight lasted about two hours and actually landed within 10 miles of the students’ predicted landing site.  And there is stunning video taken during the flight; click here to see video footage; you can view additional footage, under the engineering category.  

According to instructor Ken Kinch, “Introduction to Engineering Design is a Project Lead the Way course that allows students to better understand the engineering design process while applying math, science and engineering standards to hands-on projects. Such projects are a combination of traditional learning methods and actual trial. The balloon launch is something the students will always remember, especially since they were the designers and the tracking crew.”

The high altitude balloon launch is just one such unique project the students have been involved with this year. In addition to the recent cardboard canoe regatta (click here to read more), the group also recently designed frames for two types of remote-controlled drones.

The group compared similarities and differences between a tri-copter drone (with three motors and propellers) and a penta-copter they call the Dragonfly (that boasts five motors and propellers). Students created initial designs using Autodesk Inventor, and then cut out plywood frames on the laser cutter. They then installed the electronics, bench-tested the motors and control systems, and mounted components such as motors and speed controllers