High-altitude balloon brings students closer to space

(Photo: This is one of hundreds of photos captured from a recent high-altitude balloon launch sponsored by the student organization known as AMET.)

A high-altitude balloon launch Nov. 16 was just the first step toward a larger goal for the students of the Association of Mechanical and Electrical Technologists (AMET).

“The concept is that with the development of technology over the past years, designing high altitude balloons to go up to the upper atmosphere and function as either a science station or a rocket platform for sending small satellites into space should be easily accomplished,” said Dahlon Lyles, the student in charge of AMET’s balloon project. “We have come together to focus on developing this floating science station in a better effort to study near space conditions as well as observe the upper atmosphere and the breath-taking sites that can be only seen from there.”

During a test launch Nov. 9, the group captured stunning photos from altitudes 20,000 feet higher than most air traffic flies. They showcased the balloon for the public Nov. 16 during a launch and tracking event at the Purdue Airport. (See photos taken from the balloon launched Nov 16.)

The ultimate goal is to launch a small rocket from the balloon once it is at high altitude where the rocket could then travel to the area defined as space. The data they gather during the fall launches, such as pressure and temperature readings, will help the team make improvements and adjustments for their spring rocket launch.

“The project requires a lot of research. We have a very diverse group, ranging from technology students to aeronautical engineers and science majors. We’ve come to find that it’s not just a one-man job, but requires a team effort. It’s a lot of dedication,” said Lyles.

Lyles hopes to help attract others to the College of Technology through the creation of the balloon and other projects the organization has planned. The projects are dedicated to applied sciences where the students can learn by doing. Lyles hopes the projects appeal to current and prospective students who have a passion for science and technology.

Other projects AMET is working on include: a penny press machine, a 50-pound Robo Sumo, an assistive robot for the home, the Rube Goldberg competition and the Purdue Grand Prix. Currently, there are more than 60 registered members of AMET and many more unregistered members who come and work on the projects that interest them. The projects give students the ability to apply what they have learned in their classes to something with real world applications.

Davin Huston, continuing lecturer of electrical and computer engineering technology, is advisor to the group.

Update: November 27, 2013

  • After the Nov. 16 launch of two balloons, one of the balloons was presumed lost. A farmer finally found it in is his field, but he had to do some investigative work to find out who it belonged to. Read the story in the Journal & Courier online.
  • Read the official Purdue news tip about the farmer who found the missing balloon.
  • See the WTHR coverage of the lost balloon's recovery.
  • See videos taken throughout the balloons' flights on the AMET YouTube channel.
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