Riverview Grade School Launched Weather Balloon to the Edge of Earth’s Atmosphere


Spring Bay, IL—Up, up and away! Science teacher Emily Dawson and her junior high students at Riverview Grade School are pushing the boundaries of their classroom to the very edge of the earth’s atmosphere. In an exciting, hands-on learning experience, the students launched their own weather balloon 100,000 feet up to collect weather data, take photos and see their world from an entirely new perspective.

The launch took place Wednesday, May 22 at the Caterpillar Inc. Edwards Demonstration and Learning Center in front of an audience of 300 students from East Peoria, Metamora and Brimfield. Students gathered at 9:00 a.m. for set-up, assembly and related activities, and the launch took place around 10:50 a.m. Teachers, students and citizens everywhere will be able to witness the morning’s activities, from set-up to loss of visible flight trajectory, through a webcast on the WTVP-Public Media website.

The launch is the central focus of a multidiscipline unit on weather, using science, language arts, and literature classes cooperatively to plan, research, analyze and report on the real world application of the information taught within the classroom.

The school project was made possible through funding from PNC’s FirstGrant to Riverview Junior High teachers Emily Dawson, JoAnn Lowry-Emery and Luann Kuehn. The FirstGrant program is designed to help classroom teachers throughout central Illinois accomplish creative and innovative projects they would otherwise be unable to fund because of budget limitations, and it is supported by the Ruby K. Worner Trust and the PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (NYSE: PNC).

The helium required to fill the balloon was provided by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and arranged by WILL-TV. The launch site and equipment are courtesy of Caterpillar Inc. Production and broadcast made possible by WTVP-Public Media with support from WILL.

This project was inspired by PBS LearningMedia—a free digital library of more than 30,000 classroom-ready, curriculum targeted materials.


[Click here for full Press Release]


Track the Balloons Trajectory

Once the Balloon is released you can track its progress using the website bellow. GPS points are transmitted every 10 minutes until it reaches 60,000 feet. When balloon bursts at 100,000 feet and the parachute deploys GPS updates will begin again once it returns to the 60,000 foot level.

[Track the Balloon]


Projected Trajectory at of 6am 5/22/2013:

You can download the projected trajectory for use in Google Earth.

[Download file]  [Download Free Google Earth Software]


The Balloon & Package

Here are the specifications for the balloon and the equipment package.

  • 1200g Kaymont Balloon

  • 5ft High Altitude Parachute

  • SPOT Tracker

  • Contour Roam HD Camera

  • Sky-Probe High Altitude Data Logger:

  • Adafruit Ultimate GPS, TSL2561 Light Sensor, BMP085 Pressure/Temp

  • Sensor, and DHT22 (AM2302) Temp/Humidity Sensor.

    • Date: This is UTM date from the GPS

    • Time: UTM time from the GPS

    • H: Humidity in percent from the AM2302

    • T1: Temperature in deg F from the AM2302.

    • T2: Temperature in deg F from the BMP085.

    • P: Pressure in Hg from the BMP085.

    • PA: Pressure Altitude - altitude in feet calculated from the pressure reading.

    • IR: Raw reading from the InfraRed diode from the TSL2561. IR is also an index of heat.

    • F: Full raw reading from the TSL2561.

    • V: Visible light raw reading from the TSL2561.

    • L: Lux light reading in...Lux from the TSL2561.

    • Lat: Latitude of the datalogger.

    • Long: Longitude of the datalogger

    • Speed(mph): Speed in MPH from the GPS.

    • Alt(ft): Altitude in feet from the GPS.

    • Sat: Satellites locked on.


News Coverage


Update:  (4:00pm) The equipment package has been located! Which is amazing since the GPS system in the package turned off when it was launched.


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