Text by Dawn Antestenis/ photos by Eduardo Barraza, Gilbert Public Schools
The Mesquite High School Aerospace Engineering program worked on a high altitude weather balloon since the start of the school year. In February, they launched the balloon and payload, which reached an altitude of over 100,000 feet before the balloon burst and the payload parachuted back to earth.
The students monitored the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere as the balloon ascended in an experiment to see if the actual temperature and pressure matched their mathematical models. They also had a GoPro filming out of the side and another pointing straight down. At that altitude, they were able to see the curvature of the earth and the blackness of space.
The students named the balloon and payload The Zephyr, after the gentle west wind.
Zak Bramwell, a senior, trained and tested for his Amateur (HAM) Radio License and with his call sign, and tracked the weather balloon.
Student Jenna Kelley designed the Zephyr logo.
Seniors who have been in the program for all four years were given the honor of putting an item in the payload. So along with the experiment, they launched some personal items that the students will be able to keep knowing it has been to the edge of space. Items included an action figure, some miniature astronauts and an owl pendant hitching along for the journey.