High Altitude Balloon (HAB) project
A group of Compton College students in STEM majors (ranging from computer science to physics) recently conducted a High Altitude Balloon (HAB) project under the guidance of Professor Kent Schwitkis. The balloon launched from Compton College and traveled to near Victorville in about 3 hours and 30 minutes!
The students had a real-world opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge of the manufacturing and engineering processes, including planning, design, prototyping and testing.
With FAA permission, the students launched the balloon they built at 12:20 p.m from the area on campus east of Tartar Village. The predictions were for a burst altitude of 37 km, and a flight time of 3 hours and 20 minutes. The predicted landing destination was near Adelanto. Landing occurred at 3:53 p.m. 13 km north of Victorville, and approximately 15 km down range (northeast) from the predicted landing spot. The student recovery team found the balloon and payload at 6:03 p.m.
The balloon had on-board computers and video cameras to record data including atmospheric pressure, temperature, cosmic rays, humidity and light intensity. During flight, the transmitters stopped when the balloon reached 12 km of altitude and stayed there for about an hour. Upon recovery of the balloon, students discovered the sensor data was not recoverable because a ground wire was not connected properly. And, the video camera batteries lasted only a couple of hours.
While there were some challenges and opportunities for improvement next time, the project was a success. â€œThe students know how to fix the payload and we are waiting for financing to get another balloon, fix and perhaps modify the payload, and launch again. It was an excellent outcome for this first-time project and we hope to conduct additional STEM projects in the future,â€ said Dr. Schwitkis.