A cohort of four Springside Chestnut Hill Academy juniors and eight Drexel University students were recently selected by NASA as one of 80 teams to prepare high-altitude balloon launches.
A cohort of four Springside Chestnut Hill Academy juniors and eight Drexel University students were recently selected by NASA as one of 80 teams to prepare high-altitude balloon launches during two upcoming eclipses. With a nod to their school mascots, the joint team is called “Devil Dragon Ballooning.”
Through the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEBP), teams of students across the country will develop payloads to collect valuable scientific and engineering data with a series of coordinated high-altitude balloon weather balloons, which will be launched into the upper reaches of earth’s atmosphere during the next two solar eclipses North America will experience – an annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023, and a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.
During the annual solar eclipse, Devil Dragon Ballooning will be in place along the eclipse path to test new technologies and explore phenomena such as changes in temperatures, which can be rapid during eclipses, and cloud pattern changes caused by gravitational waves.
Student payloads focus on either atmospheric science or engineering, and SCH’s project will focus on engineering, which means they’ll launch one balloon during each eclipse, floating its 12-pound payload, which includes live streaming cameras, at about 70,000 feet.
Devil Dragon Ballooning recently began to build the ground station where data will be transmitted with the goal of completing this portion of the project by the end of the academic year. The team meets regularly in the robotics lab on the SCH campus and at Drexel to follow the intricate and highly technical instructions provided by NASA.
The NASA application process began in summer 2022 after discussions between Alissa Sperling, an SCH physics and engineering teacher and Rich Cairncross, a professor of chemical engineering at Drexel University. After hearing about SCH’s previous experience with high-altitude ballooning, Cairncross was interested in collaborating with SCH on a joint ballooning team.
SCH engineering teachers selected the four SCH students – Karina Chan van-der Helm, Shaun Gupte, Cameron Lyon, and Devin Gibson – for the 18-month course that will include balloon launches from Rock Springs, Texas, and upstate New York.