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Posted on Sep 16, 2014

Kurtis J. Wood

Students in the Gear Up program at Quincy High School launched a weather balloon into the skies above Quincy. The balloon's flight pattern had it landing in a field near Moses Lake. However, it stopped short, landing in a field off of Road 9.

Students launch weather balloon into the sky above Quincy

Up, up and away!

That was the end result of the Gear Up program’s Summer Space Camp. On Monday, seven high school students launched an 18-foot around, helium-filled balloon from the Quincy High School practice fields.

The launch set up took a little longer than expected, while the actual balloon launch happened in the blink of the eye.

“It was supposed to be slower,” ninth-grader Alexis Mondragon said. “It scared me.”

The balloon launched nearly straight up and then headed east, ascending 22 miles and traveling 12 miles east of the high school. The balloon recorded temperatures ranging from minus 64.4 degrees at 10 miles above the earth to 105.9 degrees only a quarter mile above the earth.

Unfortunately, the weather balloon landed no where near the predicted touchdown. The original flight pattern generated by information fed into a computer program predicted the balloon was going to land in a field in Moses Lake. The actual landing was off Road 9 in Quincy.

Students relied on a GPS to locate the balloon more than two hours after launch. They then enlisted the help of Russ Harrington, director of the city’s recreation department, to guide them with their tracking.

“We learned how to use GPS, so we could track it,” said Mondragon.

From the project, students also learned about weather conditions and put their building, computer and math skills to work.

These students were sophomore Dayanara Benicio and freshmen Mondragon, Esteban Giron, Daniel Quintero, Odalis Mendez, Odalis Benicio and Elisabeth Quintero.

The project, which included the balloon and frame to carry the flight computer, cost $800. The project also required three Go-Pro cameras and other supplies, bringing the cost to $3,000.

“It was just a fun experience,” Mondragon said. “We’ve never done this before.”

The camp may be over, but the three cameras have footage for the students, as well as advisors Dayana Ruiz and Kelsey Persons. Cameras were two mounted below the balloon and on a helmet. One of the attached balloons was mounted upward, so the camera would capture the balloon as it reached the bursting altitude.

“That way we could capture one popping,” Dayanara Benicio said.

The sophomore was pretty excited the balloon traveled 22 miles into the sky.

“It doesn’t go to space, but it gets close,” she said.

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