Arkansas Balloon Satellite Program Flies High

October 13, 2006 - Posted at 5:48 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- It's a project designed to give students an active role in gathering research in the earth's atmosphere.  That project is aiming high and the only way to get there is with balloons.

It's a research project that will be conducted 20 miles above the earth.

"We're going to launch a high altitude balloon.  It's basically a weather balloon. The payload contains instruments that contain instruments temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure information like this as well as our tracking equipment," said ASU Professor Dr. Tillman Kennon.

While this project may seem extremely high tech, it isn't as high tech as you might think. Students at middle schools and junior highs should be able to put one of their own together for less than $300.

The Arkansas Balloon Satellite Program is a joint effort between six Arkansas schools including, Annie Camp Middle School, Cross Country High School and Arkansas State University.  It enables students across the state to have a hands on learning experience with actual weather data.

"I think the thing we have to do as science educators is really involve students in the processes of science," said Dr. Kennon.

The group hopes to expand the project to include additional schools and more balloons, hopefully four to five times a year.

"Our number one purpose is outreach to area schools," said Dr. Kennon.

The group hopes to launch the first balloon for this project next weekend if weather permits. The individual probes built by the students will gather research and pictures before landing roughly 100 miles away, two to three hours later.

The Arkansas Balloon Satellite Program is funded by the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium through NASA.