AP Physics builds weather balloon

AP Physics builds weather balloon

For the second year in a row, AP physics teacher Nathan Bodenschatz’s class will be building and testing a weather balloon. The goal of the project is to collect meteorological data from our atmosphere.

Weather balloon kits are not cheap, and so Bodenschatz had to write a grant for the funding. The funding was recently approved, and the balloon and parts were recently delivered.

A weather balloon capable of collecting data has many intricate parts, so the task of building the balloon was split up into five groups, made up of students from the AP physics class. Each group is in charge of a specific aspect of the balloon, from tracking the balloon once it’s down, to running the flight computer. Bodenschatz hopes that this project will teach the class about weather balloons, as well as providing an enjoyable and hands-on opportunity to investigate our atmosphere.

“Honestly, I’m a bit nervous” senior Justin King said. “It seems like a lot of work, on top of the work I already have to do for the class.”
For many students, it is a lot of work. For example, the group in charge of operating the GoPro has to ensure that it is waterproof, on the off chance that it falls into a body of water. They also have to connect a working battery, as the GoPro will only last for two hours, and the total flight time is predicted to be upwards of three hours.

Another issue is generating lift. All groups must report the masses of their components to the balloon operations group. This group is in charge of the physical operations of the balloon. They must fill the balloon with enough helium to lift it off the ground.

As nobody knows where a weather balloon will land, there is a group tasked with tracking the balloon during and after flight. The battery on the tracker must also last over three hours, and be waterproof. Last year, the balloon landed over 11 hours away in Pennsylvania, very close to water.

This year, the balloon is expected to be launched at some point in early December, in the hope that the data can be analyzed before the end of the semester.