Atmosphere Project

The Atmosphere Project is currently our most ambitious program at Send2Space. Our team of 8 high school volunteers are paired up with 23 fifth grade students from an underserved elementary school to serve as mentors for the children. Each high school mentor is paired up with 3-4 students whom they will meet with over the course of 7 hour and a half sessions at the elementary school. One of our main goals was to make this program contain near zero lectures so the students would figure out and apply the concepts by themselves with the guidance of their mentors.

Throughout the sessions, students will learn STEM concepts from a custom curriculum that meets NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) through hands-on projects and workshops. Students will learn the fundamentals of high altitude ballooning and by the end of the program the students and their mentors will construct and send a high altitude balloon to low orbit space equipped with a camera so they can watch the recorded ascent and descent. The high school mentors will take care of all FAA regulations and policies while they work with the students to construct and make sure that the elementary school student’s understand the science, technology, and forces behind every step of the process.

The video above is an example of the recording of an onboard camera of a high altitude balloon that travelled to low orbit space!

Stanford students launching a rocket from a high altitude balloon

Session 2: Lift and Parachutes

During the second session, we designed a ping pong parachute that taught the children about thrust, surface area, weight, and applied the equation F = ma from the previous session. We went over Newton’s third law by learning about the equal and opposite reactions of a bottle rocket flying into the air from the bike pump’s air pressure. Students took notes and graphed their rockets flight times which taught them about the trial and error process and how scientists iterate on their designs (worksheets found here & here). The goal of the ping pong parachute was to keep a ping pong ball in the air for as long as possible after it was launched from a bottle rocket and a competition was held. You can see the winning rocket in flight below as well as another prototype.

Session 1: Density and Newton's Laws

During the first session, we learned about the layers of the atmosphere through a density model that the children were able to take home. Each substance had a different density so it didn’t mix and was analogous to each layer of the atmosphere. We learned how to calculate with F= ma(Newton’s Second Law) by observing the different distances a ping pong ball goes versus a golf ball when both are hit with the same amount of force. We all saw inertia (Newton’s first law) in action with a coin and a cup demo by trying to take drop the coin into the cup without holding the index card. Finally, we discussed which would fall faster – a bowling ball or a feather!