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Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium Hosts Balloon Satellite Launch at UW May 3-4

April 30, 2013
People with weather balloon
Students ready their balloon during a previous launch event in which StratoStar provided equipment and measuring instruments. This weekend, the education company will assist the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium at UW and four schools with a high-altitude weather balloon launch. (StratoStar Photo)

Middle and high school students and teachers from four Wyoming schools will have a chance to get carried up, up and away with their scientific research at the University of Wyoming.

The Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium hosts its first-ever High-Altitude Balloon Satellite Program Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4. During the launch, teams from the four schools will fly scientific payloads, or equipment carried by a balloon to perform a specified mission. A teacher workshop and student laboratory tours take place May 3. The payload inspection, balloon launch, and chase and recovery is scheduled May 4.

The event’s goal is to help students develop their communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills.

Schools and the number of participating students for each are: Frontier Middle School (17) and Star Lane Center (25 freshmen and sophomores), both from Casper; Campbell County High School (five), Gillette; and Clear Creek Middle School (seven), Buffalo.

“This is our first launch event. Our intent is to provide an exciting, hands-on learning experience for students to enhance their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education,” says Michele Turner, Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium program coordinator. “We hope to continue this program, by setting up a program to launch from here and around the state in the future.”

The consortium ran a competition earlier this semester and requested proposals for payloads. Four schools submitted proposals, and all were accepted, Turner says.

During the launch event, the consortium provides the four schools with the payload equipment, including a box with a harness; four sensors (two temperature, one humidity and one pressure sensor); a video camera with a micro-card and a USB charger; and $100 in funding. The equipment was purchased from StratoStar, an education company that works with institutions (K-12 schools through universities) to establish high-altitude weather balloon programs.

Jason Krueger, founder and president of StratoStar, will work with Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium staff Friday morning and conduct a teacher workshop in the afternoon. At that time, students from the four schools will take lab tours and participate in campus activities coordinated by UW’s Science Posse. Students will then meet in the Wyoming Union to make short presentations on their launch proposals.

The students will gather Saturday morning at the launch site, which has tentatively been set as Prexy’s Pasture, Turner says.

“We have set up a ‘mission control’ in the Classroom Building where the students will be able to track the balloons’ movement until the balloon explodes and lands,” Turner says.   

Two teams on the ground will chase and recover the balloons, and return with them to Laramie. Students will pick up their payloads and take them back to their schools, where they will extract the flight data, including any photos or video, Turner says. Participating schools will need to return their sensors, the module and camera after the launch.

The consortium will provide food and lodging on campus for the four teams. Awards will be given in the following categories: most beautiful payload, most creative experiment or payload, best science experiment and best follow-up presentation.

For questions or more information, email

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