On Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 middle school students at St. Margaret Regional School in Buzzards Bay, MA completed a long term science project by sending a weather balloon into space. Led by parents Larry and Elise Palmer and middle school Science teacher Mrs. Pamela Caradimos, students gathered in class and after school over a two month span to create all of the components necessary for their project. Students created patterns, and cut and sewed fabric to create their own parachute. They configured a capsule with two GPS’s, a camera and two heat packs so the instruments wouldn’t freeze. Also included was a Styrofoam coffee cup that was provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute that had been on an expedition to the deepest part of the ocean floor, and also a cup from The Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans.
Students, staff, parents and family members travelled 1 ½ hours to Tahanto Regional High School in Boylston, MA to release their balloon. The launch site was determined by Mr. Palmer, taking into account wind direction and speed, so that it would land in the vicinity of the school, in Buzzards Bay. The weather balloon was filled with a specific amount of helium. The home-made parachute was then attached to the base of the balloon and the capsule was attached to the base of the parachute. Students from Tahanto Regional had been studying about Boyle’s law and about wind speed and direction in their science class and were on hand to witness the project and cheer our team on. Staff from the school helped with the process. The balloon was released at approximately 10am. Cars then caravanned back toward southeastern Massachusetts, following readings from the GPS tracking device. We had one crew on land and one on the ocean ready to retrieve the balloon wherever it landed. The altitude of 65,000 feet is considered “near space”. The St. Margaret Regional School weather balloon rose to the impressive altitude of 103,777 feet, at which time it burst. The parachute took over as it lowered the capsule gradually, travelling eastbound, ultimately landing in Jenkins Pond, Falmouth, MA. Neighbors Jeremy Anderson, Jerry Leiber, and Susan Leiber retrieved the capsule, with all components intact. Amazing video footage and photographs of the skies over central Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, as well as near space was recovered.
St. Margaret Regional School students will never forget such an amazing opportunity to launch a weather balloon into space! They learned about astrophysics, weather and wind speed, how to track using a GPS system, sewing skills, about Boyle’s Law and so much more. The spirit of volunteerism, coming together as a community, and teamwork encompass what St. Margaret Regional School is all about. As Principal Joyce Saucier recently stated, “Every year the excitement over this project is enormous. Our entire middle school follows the progress of their classmates, real-time, out in the field, as we use our technology to track the weather balloon approaching us. Like our weather balloon, our school community “rises” to the occasion to join us by watching and waiting. Our dedicated parents and staff go the extra mile.”