Smith STEM School Launches Third Weather Balloon Into Stratosphere

The weather balloon was inflated and then released from the roof of Smith STEM School, 64 St. James St., West Hartford. Photo Courtesy of Kathy Hardesty.

The third annual weather balloon launch, funded by the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools, took place at Smith STEM School on June 6.

By Gillian Hixson

Despite the cloud-covered sky and promise of rain, Smith STEM School launched a weather balloon from the school’s roof early on Tuesday morning.

The balloon, expected to travel into the stratosphere, carried GPS equipment, a GoPro, and “Paul the Military Pilot,” a LEGO minifigure the students voted to include.

This launch is the third for the West Hartford elementary school, with the first being in the fall of 2014, Katherine Hardesty, QuEST teacher at Smith STEM, explained.

Using the GPS, the balloon is tracked and then retrieved, along with the data and footage the balloon captured on the GoPro.

The project is funded by a “Teaching on the Edge” grant from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools, with the goal of assisting all students as they learn about the atmosphere. The balloon was supposed to travel up to 20 miles high into the stratosphere and explode and parachute to the ground after about 90 minutes.

Unfortunately, the GPS equipment for this year’s weather balloon has stopped working, according to Hardesty. Therefore, the location of the balloon and the footage it has taken is unknown at this time.

Though this year’s launch and retrieval has not been the most successful, Hardesty said she hopes to do another launch in September.

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The weather balloon was inflated on the roof of Smith STEM School. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hardesty.

Paul the Military Pilot, the LEGO minifigure the students of Smith STEM School voted to send up with the weather balloon. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hardesty.

The view from the roof. Students and staff gathered to watch the launch of the weather balloon. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hardesty.

Students and staff, clad in raincoats and holding umbrellas, watched the balloon disappear into the sky. Photo credit: Gillian Hixson.

Despite the rain, the weather balloon was launched and flew off into the distance, eventually disappearing into the clouds. Photo Credit: Jackie Palermo.

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