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Union City Elementary Students Launch Weather Balloons

Students in the after school Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program recently had the opportunity to launch two weather balloons.  These weather balloons are similar to the ones launched by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service.  Students, working in teams of up to ten, were given the tasks of preparing the payload, designing the reflectors and preparing the balloons to launch. 

On launch day, the payload and reflectors were attached to the balloons and the balloons were filled with helium.  Flight patterns had to be monitored to be sure the balloon would not interfere with air traffic.   The reflectors are necessary to alert airplanes if any paths crossed.  The payload included a GPS unit for monitoring the path and landing of the balloons and a video recorder to record the flight.  The balloons typically reach a height of 73,000 feet (over 13 miles).  The higher the balloon goes, the more the atmospheric pressure falls causing the helium filled balloon to expand and then pop.  When the balloon pops, a parachute deploys and the payload, reflectors, and parachute drop to the earth.  GPS signals track the path of the balloon and provide the latitude and longitude of the landing spot.  The adult team of Mr. Glenn Shaffer and Ms. Martha Blair had the arduous task of retrieving the balloons.  The flights lasted approximately 2 ½ hours and one balloon landed near Wilkes-Barre and the other near Williamsport. 

The Union City after school program at the elementary is led by Mrs. Marlene Kuzma, and the project leaders, Mrs. Amy Swanson, Mrs. Kathy Obert, and Mrs. Shelly Thomas, were assisted by Mr. Drew Mortenson, Ms. Jill Linton, and Mr. Glenn Shaffer.  Seventy-nine students in grades four and five are participating in the STEM program, which will continue through March.  Six additional balloon launches are scheduled for later in the school year.

Balloon Launch Into the Clouds

View From Above1

Landing1 Landing2