EMU Students Launch Weather Balloon

By MEGAN WILLIAMS
Daily News-Record  11/26/19
 
When Eastern Mennonite University students were planning the launch of the weather balloon they’ve been working on all semester, they hoped the weather would cooperate.
While Monday was a sunny, mild day, the wind kicked up a bit, which wasn’t ideal for the balloon’s launch, said Douglas Nester, a student in the Engineering Design III class at EMU.
The balloon was designed to rise 125,000 feet before popping due to the atmospheric pressure, and then float down and land with the help of a parachute.
Ideally, the landing would occur somewhere close to the launch — on the hill behind campus. However, the wind would likely mean that the five- to six-hour flight would carry the weather balloon to West Virginia.
“We hope it lands in the mountains, away from people,” Nester said.
The balloon is light, and the descent slow, but no one wants to be startled by a weather balloon falling from the sky at their feet.
On its way up, the balloon recorded measurements such as temperature, humidity, and ozone concentration. The balloon also took pictures and relayed back GPS coordinates.
The idea for the project came from a friend of Nester’s. Each semester the engineering design class takes on multiple projects, but this is definitely the biggest project it has taken
on, Nester said.
While the information gained from the balloon is interesting, the project was more about “proof of concept and follow- through” than using the data. Nester said that multiple launches could help answer questions and climate change trends, though.
About 75 students from Eastern Mennonite School, as well as EMU students and community members, watched the balloon launch on Monday morning.