STEM Education with Weather Balloons

Human civilization’s move into the new era is being orchestrated by science. As life in every form intersects with technological developments, preparing the youth of today for a future of innovation has become an imperative. According to Bureau of Labour Statistics, 1.9 million STEM educated professionals were needed in the US by the end of 2019. Most of such professionals are needed in aerospace science because nearly all the permutations and combinations of STEM fields are utilised in it. The climate change gives rise to the need of cutting edge technology to mitigate the challenges.

However teaching science in school isn’t just introducing young minds to new subjects but developing an aptitude of lifelong learning.

With a vision of equipping students with problem-solving skills that will help them navigate through their careers and eventually through life, schools are developing cutting edge curriculum and state-of-the-art facilities to give their students an experience instead of just theories. These activities develop chances of development of scientific temperament which would translate into learning and choice of STEM fields for higher education.

This has lead to a challenge of incorporating fun activities in teaching modules to keep student-engagement levels very high without any compromise on learning. STEM education has possibilities of designing numerous such activities. Space Trek assists educators in designing STEM education modules suitable for the school curriculum.

With different programs like robotics, weather balloons launch and rocketry, Space Trek provides a plethora of activities that are conducted with indigenously developed sophisticated learning equipment. Weather balloon launch or Near Space Investigation program is one class where students work in a team and learn physics, data analysis and weather sciences.

Like the Weather balloons used by scientist for high scale experiments, these are high altitude balloons which carry payload sensors and programme them to operate and transmit data from around 100,000 feet. The payload constitutes of GPS, temperatures sensors (up to -70C), barometer and pressure sensors, IR contactless temperature sensor and humidity sensor. It carries a flight computer, and the NSI system consists of PODS-wireless sensor processing units. Each Pod is capable of communicating with up to four analog, four digital and five 12 C sensors. With the ability to connect 30 external sensors on the Pods, the system is designed to handle highly sophisticated and scientific weather balloon launches.

A Gopro camera is attached with the balloon which records the footage which is analysed by the ground station. After the launch of weather balloon, the payload transmits data to the ground station where NSI ground station antenna is placed for data transmission and keeping track of payloads. The information thus gathered is analysed by the team to arrive at weather conditions such as humidity, condensation and evaporation etc.

Students from numerous countries have attended the Near Space Investigation program and successfully launched their weather balloons. Space Trek has now devised a weather balloon kit and is training teachers across the US to bring the program closer to the students. Talk to a Space Trek instructor to find out more.

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