What started as one Crawford Bay Elementary-Secondary School student’s math project has turned into something bigger — and gathered three more students along the way.
Drew Rideout (Grade 12), Daelin Smith and Daniel Wensick (Grade 8), and Iyra Couling (Grade 7) are developing a weather balloon, with the goal of having it record temperature, pressure and video at an altitude of about 40 kilometres.
Now dubbed the Eos Project, named for the Greek goddess of dawn, it began in January when Rideout was assigned a math project that could be applied to the real world, and he began to consider something, well, out of this world.
“I looked at space stuff because I was always interested in it,” he said.
The other team members were immediately drawn to the project because of its near-to-space objective.
“I’m never going to go into space,” said Wensink. “But if I can see almost to space, even on a video recording, that’d be cool.”
The project’s budget is about $3,200, helped in part by a $2,000 Columbia Basin Trust grant and donations from the community. Those contributions have enabled the team to buy most of the equipment needed for the Eos Project, including the balloon and some sensors.
The balloon itself weighs 3,000 grams, and will have a parachute and foam box containing sensors and recording equipment attached beneath it. When inflated with helium, it will be about 2.1 metres (seven feet) in diameter, but will expand to about 13.1 metres (43 feet) when it reaches its maximum altitude of 40 kilometres, where the exterior temperature will be about –60 C.
The two-kilogram payload will include two GoPro cameras — one aimed at straight down, the other at the horizon — which they’re hoping to have GoPro sponsor. Another piece of equipment is the automatic packet reporting system, which will allow real-time communication with the balloon, a step up from the GPS in the original plan.
A flight prediction program will help them pick the best day to send it up, and the flight will last about two hours before the balloon pops, deploying the parachute and letting the box fall safely within a 50-kilometre radius of its launch.
After it lands — in Kootenay Lake, they hope, rather than in the mountains — they will be able to glean data from the box’s sensors, “like how fast it falls and how fast it expands,” said Couling.
The project’s success isn’t simply in the statistics, though.
“Stats are cool, but it’s not like we’re going to find anything anyone hasn’t before,” said Couling.
But details of their project could help others do something similar.
“We’ll publish it on the website and have it available for other people who want to do it,” said Rideout.
CBESS isn’t the first school to launch a weather balloon, but it’s still attracting attention when the team reaches out for help, and even earned them a visit to the 3D printing lab at Selkirk College.
“It’s really surprising how many people offered to help,” said Smith. “One person offered to fly beside it and get footage from his plane, just because he can.”
If everything falls into place, the launch could happen as early as mid-June, and although Rideout graduates this year, he’s not pushing for it to happen — he’ll gladly return when everything is ready to go.
“I’d rather do it right than do it rushed and lose it,” he said.
For more on the Eos Project, visit theeosproject.wordpress.com.