The Carnegie Science Center (CSC) and StratoStar teamed up to launch a parrot to the edge of space. The Pirate Parrot, the mascot of the Pittsburgh Pirates, took a wild ride when a team of StratoStar students strapped him onto the payload of a weather balloon. The balloon was launched at the edge of the baseball field during pre-game festivities, and it rose high up into the stratosphere.
So why did CSC work with StratoStar to help a parrot fly to 96,000 ft.? CSC wanted to engage female students in a hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education experience. According to the CSC, while women make up 50% of the workforce in the United States, only 25% of STEM jobs are held by women. The CSC is on a mission to reverse the trend with their STEM education programs for female students.
“Jason Krueger [of StratoStar]… enabled us to pull off a complex project with many partners and many moving parts,” said Mike Hennessy, Program Development Coordinator at CSC. “As a teacher, his knowledge of the history of high altitude ballooners led us to the story of Jeannette Piccard, first woman to fly to the stratosphere – a perfect fit for our ‘Girls Rock Science’ celebration, which took place the day of the launch.”
“It has been great working with Carnegie Science Center,” said StratoStar’s CEO Jason Kruger. “We both have a passion for inspiring the next generation of scientist and engineer who will change the world.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates – and their mascot – got involved when they caught wind of CSC’s plans to launch the weather balloon during Carnegie’s Girls Rock Science Weekend. Excited about the opportunity to get students energized about STEM, the Pirates offered to host the launch at their home game against the Cincinnati Reds.
“I remember playing baseball in the backyard and pretending to hit home runs in a professional baseball stadium,” Krueger said. “It is funny that I did finally fly a ball out of a MLB stadium through a STEM career.”
This was CSC’s first launch with StratoStar, but it won’t be the last. The team at CSC intends to expand the program to offer teachers in Pennsylvania professional development in hands-on experiences and project-based learning. CSC may also begin to offer weather balloon summer camp.
“Our educators and leadershipare extremely excited about doing future launches!” Hennessy said. “Who knows what we might do on the next launch? A giant mission control event on site in our Works Theater?The world’s farthest egg drop? The sky’s the limit!
The launch was a huge success. The Pirate Parrot sailed into the stratosphere, where the weather balloon burst because of the low atmospheric pressure. As the balloon popped, a parachute deployed, and the Pirate Parrot fell back to earth, 15 miles away from the Pirates’ stadium. The parrot and the payload both were retrieved and the students were able to analyze their flight data.
“Working withStratostar enabled us to create a huge media buzz to get people excited about science and the thrill of adventure,exploring the near space environment,” Hennessy said. “It was a perfect fit with our mission to delight, educate, and inspire.”
StratoStar is an education company that travels across the country to start project-based learning programs in junior high, high school, college, and graduate schools seeking to put a greater emphasis on STEM education initiatives. Using weather balloons, easy-to-use software, and a teaching plan that has been implemented in schools at all levels as well as high-profile government institutions, StratoStar takes students away from the textbook and into a real life mission. Students learn 21st-century skills as they plan, build, launch, and analyze the results of a successful balloon launch that will travel to the edge of space, complete with video and computer-generated flight analysis.
About Carnegie Science Center
Carnegie Science Center is dedicated to inspiring learning and curiosity by connecting science and technology with everyday life. By making science both relevant and fun, the Science Center’s goal is to increase science literacy in the region and motivate young people to seek careers in science and technology. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Science Center is Pittsburgh’s premier science exploration destination, reaching more than 700,000 people annually through its hands-on exhibits, camps, classes, and off-site education programs.