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Balloon camera launched by GH elementary students takes aerial photos

Jordan Travis • Jul 21, 2015 at 10:54 AM

The idea, Tyler said, was to send the balloon up with the camera to take pictures of Earth. The two brothers were inspired when they saw a similar feat in a magazine, and others who have launched their weather balloon cameras claim to have reached heights of over 100,000 feet.

The two are trying to see the curvature of the Earth, Tyler said, “and trying to get cool pictures from up high.”

To achieve that, the boys put a video camera inside a Styrofoam cooler. Complete with a cell phone with an external camera, the rig has hand-warmers to keep the electronics from freezing in the upper atmosphere. Topped off with a foil radar target, the craft has been dubbed the “MAW Voyager,” Tyler said.

Eventually, the balloon burst and the cooler parachuted down near Coopersville. It was tracked using the phone’s GPS and retrieved at around 1:45 p.m. by a WZZM crew, the Grand Rapids television station reported.

The video they recovered shows the students as they watched the balloon float away. Houses are then visible as the balloon heads east over Grand Haven.

WZZM reported that the balloon reached heights of around 20,000 feet.

Before the launch, Lessens held an assembly and showed a video taken by a group who called their balloon “STRATOS-1.” Their camera flew more than 60 miles across Florida’s peninsula, taking pictures where blue sky fades to black, and the curvature of the globe can clearly be seen.

Andrew Ratke — Brian and Tyler’s fourth-grade science teacher at Mary A. White — said the boys talked about the idea in class, and put it together with a lot of help from their father and older brother.

“I think this is an awesome project,” Ratke said. “These guys have science on their mind all the time — and for these students to be able to take this outside the classroom, and take some things we’re learning inside the classroom and apply it to bigger projects, is really special.”

View a clip of what the camera recorded (Hosted by WZZM-TV):

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