With companies like Sky-Probe making weather balloons more accessible, near-space photography and instrumentation is becoming a more popular source of engagement for science teachers all over the world. A sky-launch kit now comes in at under $1000, which is generally low enough to attract buyers in relatively-affluent schools.
The price is coming down, and sky-launch kits are becoming popular gifts from benefactors to schools. The unique perspective that a launch kit can give to students is the real attractor, as it actually allows them to witness the blackness of space and curvature of the earth; this tends to instill some awe. The following are some fun projects that can be performed with a launch kit.
First is weather-tracking. Collecting your own weather data from a balloon and learning to interpret it is something that tends to stick with you for years. Once you’ve done it once, you’ll remember it every time you encounter a weather report. These can be fun projects because they allow you to introduce a host of new tools and instruments, so it’s hard to go wrong with weather-related projects.
Consider collecting a variety of data and having different teams of students becoming responsible for different dimensions of data, and make their teams collaborate as relevant to generate a full interpretation.
Next up is simple photography. There’s quite a lot to take photos of from up above. A picture of your local continent is always a good call. If you have one of the higher-end kits, you can sometimes coax a live video feed out of the balloon. This tends to be eye-opening, especially for kids that haven’t been able to experience flight in an airplane yet.
Photography projects can be expanded by having projects to include the photos in scrapbooks, or else having kids mark and research landmarks that they can identify on the photographs your class takes.
Finally, consider climate and air quality examinations. These are a little more complicated than weather examinations as they will require significant research. You’ll need to compare whatever your findings are to past data to derive real meaning from them. Still, this can be an excellent project for students that have had significant project experience already.
All projects can be greatly expanded if you can get students to come up with related hypotheses for examination. With a balloon launch kit and all the fixings, the sky really is the limit for your science class.