Providence Academy science teacher Mr. Dan Fisher lakes to take it to the edge…the edge of outer space, that is. Mr. Fisher’s Earth and Space science class recently sent a weather balloon with an instrument package more than 90,000 feet into the sky to collect atmospheric data and take pictures. A GPS tracker sent continuous position reports to the ground crew below. And in case you were wondering what the world looks like from twice the height that commercial airliners can fly, here is the answer:
The project reminded this writer of NASA’s glory days, when Apollo went to the moon. While Mr. Fisher was not wearing a white vest like Apollo launch director Gene Kranz, he did sport his LED display-equipped top hat and demanded the same level of precision and discipline exhibited by the legendary mission controller.
Students Isaiah Counts and John Mikkelson served as the project’s chief designers. They assembled the instrument package, make sure the computer code worked, and test the electronics. The design and construction of the payload container was handled by Danny Fafinski, Jack Kolsrud, Luke Tapani, Andrew Murphy, and Riley Loew. Leo Anderson, Marcus Beddor, Stephen Kopp, Hanna Jennings, and David Ritz planned the mission’s flight parameters including the launch and recovery procedures. The all-important task of recording the data fell to Evyn Schmidt, Cole Norell, Sam Ahl, and Emily Hefel. PA Science Department Chair Mrs. Elise Sheehan stood by to take pictures and cheer the students on.
The Kennedy Space Center in Florida was busy with another project so Mr. Fisher moved his launch complex to Atwater, Minnesota. Under clear skies and almost perfect conditions, the weather balloon and its instrument package soared aloft at 10:15 AM Central Daylight Time, sending back information about pressure, temperature and percent humidity every 30 seconds. An automatic camera snapped pictures.
The balloon finally burst at about 99,000 feet, just as it was supposed to do, and the instrument package drifted back to Earth under a parachute. Touchdown was in a farm field at 12:20 PM CDT. The equipment was recovered intact. Next up on Mission Control’s checklist is a thorough analysis of the recorded data and a final mission report. More pictures and videos of the historic (for PA) mission can be found at https://paearthandspace.shutterfly.com/pictures.
The Providence Academy Science Olympiad Team did an impressive job at the Minnesota State Tournament on March 14 at St. Olaf College. Though some team members could not attend due to spring break plans, those that came worked together to cover all events and achieved 9th place overall out of 32 teams. PA students had four events scoring in fifth place: Ava Raffel and Amaryllis Hennessy in Anatomy, Ava R. Amaryllis H. and Lily Cadwallader in Experimental Design, Peter Flanders and Aaron Kim in Elastic Launched Glider, Dylan Drean and Griffin Seppala in Bioprocess Lab. Several 6th place finishes were awarded to Luke Tessier and Adam Huser for Dynamic Planet, to Dylan Drean and Lane O’Meara for Can’t Judge a Powder, and to Ava Raffel and Lily Cadwallader for Write It-Do It. Danny Hogan and Justin Kim scored in 7th place for Solar System and Dylan Drean and Lane O’Meara scored in 8th place for Crimebusters. Cole Straszewski and Sean Donohue built a Wheeled Vehicle that came in 9th place. Luke Tessier and Amaryllis Hennessy came in 9th place for Fossils. Dylan Drean was assisted at the last moment by Aaron Kim to earn 9th place for Road Scholar.
Mrs. Elise Sheehan and Mr. Matthew Smith spent the afternoon running the Bioprocess Lab event, assisted by Mr. Sheehan and parent Mrs. Deb Seppala. Mr. Dan Fisher coordinated the Providence team movements, assisted by Mr. and Mrs. Seppala, Mr. and Mrs. Cadwallader, Mrs. Karen Tessier, Mrs. Hogan, Mrs. Tammy Drean and Mr. Tim Hennessy. Coaches Sheehan, Fisher and Smith extend their thanks to the parents who supported the team throughout the year.
Science Department Chair Mrs. Elise Sheehan will attend a meeting in June to choose next year’s events and tournament sites. The Science Olympiad Moodle page will remain up during the summer to give students a preview of the next season. Congratulations to all the members of Providence Academy’s Science Olympiad Team.