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Hands-On Learning: Launch Your Homework into Space

 Cheshire Academy's known for it's hands-on learning philosophy. From experiments that pop, fizzle, and spark to real-world problem solving in the outdoors, teachers put together interesting lesson plans that allow students to apply classroom knowledge in the real world. 

That's exactly what Cheshire Academy’s AP Physics class did in the spring of 2012 when they decided to design a platform that could attach to a weather balloon in order to collect images of the curvature of the Earth, as well as data on the effects of high altitude and radiation on specific biological samples—and in the words of Instructor Ray Cirmo, the project was “a screaming success!” NBC Connecticut also caught up with Mr. Cirmo and his class, and you catch the interview here.

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After collecting the necessary government permissions, such as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearance, the class launched the balloon from Winchester, Connecticut, on the morning of May 3, 2012. The platform, attached to the balloon, traveled to an altitude of 120,000 feet.

Initially 6 feet in diameter, the sounding balloon expanded to nearly 30 feet in diameter at maximum altitude, collected atmospheric particles near space, and took photographs from two different cameras attached to the platform, as can be seen in the documentary. After a rapid 25 minute descent to earth via parachute, the weather balloon platform was retrieved from Killingworth, CT-- about 55 miles away from the launch site.

According to Mr. Cirmo, "This was small potatoes--a trial run--compared to what I have in store for next year's class." We can't wait to see even more extraordinary images of space next spring! But for now, we're still enjoying the views that AP Physics 2012 caught in this short documentary. 


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Carrie Moores

Written by Carrie Moores

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