Race2Space weather balloon launch

Students at The Whitehaven Academy will be launching their Race2Space weather balloon at 12.30pm tomorrow.

This is the culmination of a project which the students have been working on since October last year. The students were one of only three school teams accepted onto the REACT Engineering’s ‘Mission Control Cumbria’ challenge. The team had to bid for their place on the project, a process which included delivering a presentation to REACT Engineering. Since October, they have been incredibly dedicated, working every day during the week (apart from exam weeks) and during the Christmas holidays.

The task is simple, but daunting – take photographs of the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space. The aim is to achieve the highest altitude possible, with the most compelling footage recorded during ascent and descent. However, in order to achieve this, the team must send a weather balloon into the atmosphere (around 100,000ft up), a mammoth task in itself!

The team had to build a device to be attached to a weather balloon which would record video footage as it ascends into the higher reaches of the atmosphere and during its return to earth.  The device must be capable of being recovered intact following its return to earth and of recording the altitude it reaches.

The teams are also asked to consider what other data they could collect at the altitudes they anticipate reaching.

The team has worked together to design their device, build it, test it, and then launch it. This has been an amazing project for them to take part in and staff and students at the academy can’t wait to see how they get on!

The students have learnt so much since October, have worked together as a great team, organised themselves into working groups, organised and run regular meetings, organised trips to the Fab Lab in Cockermouth, learnt how to forecast the weather, constructed videos from scratch, liaised with local and national media and other organisations through phone, email and twitter.

As an additional aspect of the project, the students organised and delivered a Transition Day for Year 5 and 6 pupils from two local primary schools – St. Patricks in Cleator Moor and Bransty Primary School in Whitehaven. The primary pupils designed and built their very own parachute and payload to keep a fragile egg safe when dropped from a height of three metres. The students received fantastic feedback from the primary schools with a Year 6 teacher from Bransty Primary School commenting: “Your Year 11 students were obviously highly motivated and keen to make sure the visiting children got the most out of the day.”

Nigel Gillson, Teacher of Science, commented: “I am extremely proud of each of the young people involved with this fantastic opportunity.  I have watched them work tirelessly since October, working nearly every day to research, learn and build the payload and parachute. When they have come across problems, they have just sailed on through. Each of them has taken on this project with a sense of pride and determination, focusing only on the goal. I feel honoured to have been a part of their achievement.”

James King, one of the team of REACT engineers working with the students, said: “At REACT our goal is to inspire local students into a career in a STEM subject – this project captures various disciplines including the technical aspects, project management and the final task to tell their story in film and word. A big challenge for the students but we have every confidence that they will demonstrate success.”

Overall, the team has demonstrated an incredible dedication and determination to succeed.  What a fantastic achievement!

Find out more:
Twitter @WHASpaceTrip
Their blog: http://whaspacetrip.weebly.com/about.html
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/whaspacetrip
Watch their film trailers: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW-xo7bjKl0Ff6W-X7IghJA