In a first at Cardinal Gibbons, students recently launched a weather balloon from the middle of the piazza, sending it 92,000 feet (nearly 20 miles) into the afternoon sky. One hour and 40 minutes later they watched as the balloon, containing cameras, tracking units, and devices for gathering weather data, descended safely to the ground some 30 miles away.
The goal of the May 3rd launch, sponsored by the Science Department together with the Space Explorers Club, was to give students an opportunity to learn more about science as well as the Earth’s atmosphere and how important it is,” said Science Educator Diane Ripollone who also is the moderator of the Space Explorers Club. The entire school community was able to track the balloon’s flight via Google Maps automatic packet reporting system, she added.
And learn they did. Through the launch students learned practical math, science, and engineering skills. Additionally, they got a glimpse of the curvature of Earth, of the area where the atmosphere ends and space begins, and of how different Raleigh looks from 92,000 feet above the Earth’s surface. And they captured it all in pictures and on video.
"The hope is the launch is something special that students will remember and be reminded of what amazing things can be accomplished when Gibbons community members come together and work collaboratively,” said Alex Longo '18, president of The Space Explorers Club.
David Wiwel ’20, who with his father, Tim Wiwel, an engineer, (pictured right with Ms. Ripollone) were instrumental in setting up the launch agreed. He added that the launch also provided “a way to gather weather data, as well as take cool pictures, not only to get a perspective of how beautiful our Earth is but also how precious and sacred it is.”
For the launch Mr. Wiwel filled the 500-gram weather balloon with 80 cubic feet of helium before releasing it. He said the balloon would expand to 20-25 feet before popping and parachuting back to land.
Alex Longo ’18, president of The Space Explorers Club, said the launch provided a first-of-its-kind event for the club’s end-of-the-year project. “The hope,” he said, "is it is something special that students will remember and be reminded of what amazing things can be accomplished when Gibbons community members come together and work collaboratively.”
Ripollone said she is sharing the photos and weather data collected from the launch with her classes and with educators at Gibbons and across the country. "What was so great about this event is that the entire Gibbons community was able to get involved," she said.