In this blog series we will be taking you back in time. In 2012 we had the opportunity to watch a graduate from StratoStar’s STEM Academy make history in a very cool way. In a huge collaboration with the Strategic Air and Space Museum, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Physics, the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Consortium, Omaha and Lincoln Public Schools, UNL 4-H, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, we were a part of an STEM experiment that impacted 85,000 people at one time!
Jon Humiston, Creative Director of Strategic Marketing for UNL, came up with the idea to launch a high altitude balloon at one of Nebraska’s largest sporting events: a Cornhuskers football game. Jon went to Brad Barker, who was co-investigator and the 4-H lead on the plan. Brad was immediately excited about the prospect of working with balloons, and knew the 4-H crew would be excited as well. To check the feasibility of their plan, they went to Michael Sibbernsen, Science and Technology Coordinator for the Strategic Air and Space Museum. Michael had the most extensive knowledge of ballooning, and was able to organize all of the necessary equipment.
The plan was to launch a balloon during halftime at a game in front of roughly 85,000 people. The balloons would carry experiments and other traditional equipment, like tracking devices and cameras. But of course, to get started, they needed experiments that they could send up with the balloons. This led them to a couple of local grade schools in Omaha. Working with a few teachers, they would let the students create and hypothesize their own experiments to send into near space.
As excitement for the project grew, they realized one balloon might not be enough to contain all of the experiments and interest. So they decided to add another one. Then another. So for the launch, they had a total of three balloons they were going to send into near-space, with two of those balloons being designated to carry experiments. One balloon would carry an experiment designed by students from Omaha Bryan Middle and Omaha McMillan Magnet schools, while another would carry an experiment designed by students at the university. The third balloon would carry a University of Nebraska banner into near-space.
In our next post, we’ll talk more about the experiments, the launch itself, and how things went. In the time being, check out our free e-book downloadon STEM education!