Since 2007 the MnSGC at the U of MN – Twin Cities has engaged students in building “near-space-craft” (AKA “payloads”) and using weather balloons to loft them into the stratosphere where the conditions (and the view!) are much like outer space. Student-built payloads carry cameras, microcontroller-logged sensor suites, gps systems, tracking radios, and more. Participants hone valuable skills including designing and building payload structures from light-but-tough materials, soldering, microcontroller programming, wiring and logging sensors, CAD fabrication, trajectory predictions, radio systems for tracking and data telemetry, high-altitude photography, and data analysis.
U of MN students interested in participating on the Stratospheric Ballooning Team should contact Prof. James Flaten <email@example.com> to learn more. Groups from other schools – college-level and/or pre-college – interested in developing their own payloads to possibly fly on MnSGC high-altitude balloon flights should also contact Prof. Flaten about options.
Goldy Gopher on a balloon flight (42 seconds, no audio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxApfU8DqUs
Photo at right – view from about 100,000 feet (in the stratosphere).
Photo below – preparing weather balloons to carry student-built payloads to “near-space.”