Dr. Paul Marty and 25 honors students in IFS 2097: Emerging Technologies released a weather balloon that launched a 3D-printed copy of the FSU torches, as well as GoPro cameras, into the stratosphere to capture a 360-degree video of the FSU torches floating 20 miles high above the earth.
Launching a camera on a weather balloon has been on Marty’s bucket list for about five years now, and teaching this E-Series class on Emerging Technologies has given him a chance to do just that. His students are equally enthusiastic about the project, and have been eager to learn and work in this hands-on, project-based, technology-rich environment. The class custom-designed the payload from scratch, 3D-printed the FSU torches and the GoPro camera rig, collaborated with the National Weather Service to plan the launch and worked with the Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society to help track the balloon during flight.
The class launched the balloon on Monday, April 4, around 10:45 a.m. As word has gotten around about the project, others are also getting excited. Marty says, “I’ve really been thrilled by the interest across campus. Many people have volunteered to help the students achieve their goal — including faculty and students from the College of Communication and Information, the Department of Metereology, the FSU student chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH, and more!”
When the class launched the helium weather balloon, it was about six feet in diameter. As the balloon ascended into the sky, it expanded to approximately 20 feet before it pops and the parachute is released. The balloon is expected to travel 18-20 miles up in about 90 minutes. Thanks to support from FSU’s Grants for Engaged Learning (GEL) program, Marty has secured an Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) to track the balloon and its payload in real time, allowing him and his students to follow the balloon in flight. Weather conditions and the jet stream greatly influence the balloon’s trajectory, the payload landed near Jasper, Florida and was retrieved on Tuesday, April 5th. At it’s highest, the balloon reached 66,709 feet, which is about 12.5 miles high!
Students in the Emerging Technologies class have been working on this project all semester, placing a strong emphasis on team-based student collaboration. During the first five weeks of class, the students researched all the different aspects of the project in small groups. The students then divided into teams in order to focus on specific aspects of the project based on their interests: video, 3D printing, social media, GPS tracking and mechanical engineering (including the balloon, parachute and payload).
As Marty points out, “This is a great project for students interested in emerging technologies! It’s easy to understand, but hard to do well. Anyone can attach a camera to a weather balloon and let it go; the hard part is getting your camera back.”
Now that the group has located the payload and the GoPros, Marty’s class will spend the rest of the semester editing the videos together to create a 360-degree video of the FSU torches in flight.