Green Bank Elementary-Middle Schools Launch Weather Balloon


And with that joyous send off, the Green Bank Elementary-Middle school weather balloon quickly took to the skies on a trip that was expected to take it just southeast of Charlotteville, Virginia before popping and dropping its payload.   The launch, originally scheduled for March 23rd, finally happened on March 30th, although some sudden wind gusts almost resulted in a premature takeoff.

Ellie Bell, the new middle school science teacher at Green Bank talked about the experiments the kids came up with for the launch.

“The sixth, seventh and eighth grade have been coming up with experiments and we are sending up bubble wrap to see if it will pop or shrink,” said Bell. “ We don’t know because the temperature is going to go down, but the pressure difference will go up, so we’re interested in knowing that.  What will happen to Styrofoam packing peanuts in changing temperatures and pressures, similar to the bubble wrap.”

Other items also being sent up were a potato chip, popcorn, a marshmellow, a watch and a vial of water.  The watch will be compared to one that stays on the ground to see if temperature and pressure cause any changes to the workings of the watch sent up in the balloon payload.   Bell said students at Pocah

ontas County high school also had some experiments in the payload.

“The high school is sending up an air plant; they’re sending up a cold weld, really thin slivers of untreated steel that are stuck together to see if they weld together and a piece of steel to see if the oxidation properties change.”

And like any good experiment, the kids had to think about what kind of results to expect.

“Yes, they’ve come up with hypotheses and the eighth graders made posters with their hypotheses and explaining all these questions we have, and they’re going to go around later to the elementary school classrooms and teach about states of matter and what molecules and particles do when they are in different temperatures and pressures…yeah, we have studied it a lot!”

Marty Bloss, a member of the 8 Rivers Amateur Radio Club, talked about the balloon and it’s track across the skies.

“So the flight today will leave from the Gree

n Bank Elementary-Middle school and we’re putting in enough Helium to take a just under 6 pound payload up to between 80,000 and 100,000 feet,” said Bloss. “At that point the balloon will continue to expand because air pressure decreases to the point that the balloon will explode, the payload will drop, it has a parachute that will open and that will bring it back to earth.  Today’s flight will go just about due east and the balloon will pop southeast of Charlottesville.”

A chase team had already left earlier that day to be in position to retrieve the payload using GPS tracking software.   The 8 Rivers Amateur Radio Club also provided antennas and hand-held radios to allow the students to track the balloon as it left Green Bank.

“See how clear that is ? (telemetry sounds) So when you point at the balloon, you have a signal and when you don’t, you don’t. So hook em up and give em a try.”

Teacher Ellie Bell is very grateful to the following organizations for helping to fund the weather balloon launch:

  • Green Bank Observatory
  • Durbin Lions Club
  • Snowshoe Foundation
  • 8 Rivers Amateur Radio Club

She is also thankful for the many volunteers from the school, observatory and radio club who helped make the launch a great success.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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