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May 31, 2017 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

In test of eclipse project, students send balloon to the stratosphere

Students at Rendezvous Elementary School gathered Friday to launch a single balloon 100,000 feet into the atmosphere.

It wasn't just a party trick: Equipped with two cameras, the balloon was expected to fly three times higher than a typical jet airplane.

It is a balloon similar to one that will be deployed Aug. 21, when a total solar eclipse will darken the skies over the Riverton Valley and other locations in the United States. As it flies into space, the balloon will capture live video and images and send the information to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to be displayed online as part of the NASA Space Grant High Altitude Eclipse balloon challenge.

Education team

Twenty-five other student groups across the country will take part in a similar experiment, which was organized locally by the Wind River Eclipse Education team.

WREET members Cheryl Coleman, Suki Smaglik, Phil Pierson and Andrew Coleman partnered with Rendezvous teachers Kendra Bush and Marci Campbell to coordinate the recent launch - and help retrieve the balloon as it descended.

"Were flying some student experiments," Cheryl Coleman said, noting that Friday's practice run would help researchers plan before the big event.

The balloon came back to Earth later inthe day Friday landing in a rural area near Lysite about 50 miles east of Riverton.

Boxes

The fifth-graders who conducted Friday's launch met during lunch over the past two weeks to plan for the event and design three boxes that were attached to the balloon.

The boxes held items the students wished to experiment on to see what would happen to them at a high altitude. One box contained a bouncy rubber ball, while another was equipped with a thermometer attached to an image of the school's mascot, the Rendezvous Rattler.

A banana was strapped to the outside of the third box, which also held an egg inside.

One of the boxes held a letter that listed the school's contact information. "Really, it was the kids' ideas, with us facilitating," Campbell said.

Applications

Teachers held a special application and interview process for students interested in being part of the launch team. Thirty-four applications were received, Campbell said, and teachers chose 10 students to participate. Each student was interviewed, with questions focusing on why each was interested in the experiment. Students also were asked to talk about the skills they have that could help them be successful team members.

Rendezvous principal Karly Ward expressed appreciation for the teachers who brought the launch to the school.

"I thank them for giving up their lunch time and supporting students," Ward said. "It's truly historic, and I hope the community understands the rarity of this event."
 

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