98 Ballooning for the Scientific Method: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Weather Balloon

Monday, 7 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Sean McGill, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; and A. L. Hiscox

In the spring of 2018, students from the University of South Carolina and 5th grade teachers from White Knoll Elementary School in Lexington, South Carolina piloted a joint-educational effort to launch and recover high altitude weather balloons. USC students worked with fifth grade classes to design, create, and launch atmospheric experiments. The role of the university students was to act as mentors and guide the fifth graders through the scientific method and make sure that any proposed experiments were reasonable. Fifth grade teachers guided the in-class experience and ensured fit with state curriculum standards. Experiments varied by class. University students helped guide the experiments so that they fit financial, weight, and technical restrictions. USC students met with classes on a bimonthly basis to help guide them through each step of the scientific method, starting with a question and ending with the analysis of the data after the launch. Platforms were created for each of the classes and modified to best secure their respective payloads. A total of 6 launches were conducted between April and May of 2018. Each payload contained a GoPro camera, a flight computer, a GPS tracker, and the fifth grade class' designed experiment. This presentation will present the results of the experiments themselves, educational outcomes for graduate students, undergraduate students, and elementary school students. Thoughts from teachers and students on how this program could be improved in future years and plans to incorporate flight computer coding into a districtwide initiative will also be presented.
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