3rd graders launch weather balloon from Minneapolis park

For months, a group of third graders in Minneapolis has been working on an ambitious adventure.

Thursday brought the culmination of their work, when the kids launched a weather balloon in Minneapolis.

“We just launched the best thing ever, a weather balloon,” said 9-year-old Journey Clopton.

Since November, the class from Lake Nokomis Community School’s Keewaydin campus has been building and planning.

They worked closely with one student’s father, Mark Ellison-Taylor, who is an amateur radio operator with a background in electronics and a passion for space and science.

“There is a good opportunity in the United States to teach children about the internet of things using small computer, Raspberry Pi, which is a small $30 computer, that teaches children how to program, engineering, and use it for science experiments, all at a relatively low cost price,” Ellison-Taylor said.

The students committed two 55-minute classes a week to the project, funded by the PTA and parents.

“It's so cool because it goes up all the way to space and then comes all the way back down, and we don't know where it is unless we predict it. I like guessing stuff,” Clopton said.

On its way up, the balloon collected data on temperature, pressure, humidity and density. All that data was then transmitted back to earth so the kids could track it on a website.

As it went up to 90,000 feet, the balloon expanded before popping and parachuting back to the ground.

“I think the joy in their eyes was the fact that all of this came to one big wonderful balloon that goes up in the sky,” said the group’s teacher, Lorna Wickham-Lewis.

The students predict that the balloon will land somewhere in Wisconsin. Once the snow melts this spring, they plan to go retrieve it.

”I think we get so caught up in keeping up with our curriculum, we forget that these real life experiences are the ones that keep them forever. And I think we have rooms of engineers already in my 29 kids,” Wickham-Lewis said.

Students also had to attain FAA approval to launch their balloon.