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Weather balloon launched by students at Kilough Elementary
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Kilough Elementary School students and staff cheer as Amy Tankersley and her class launch a weather balloon at the school on April 16. - photo by Erica Jones

On Friday, April 16, fourth-grade students and teachers from Kilough Elementary School launched a weather balloon into the sky as part of their study on weather and weather patterns. 

According to Amy Tankersley, the fourth-grade science and social studies teacher who organized and carried out the weather balloon project, students have been studying climate and weather for several weeks leading up the balloon launch. 

“We’ve been studying weather patterns and we also had a unit on space, so the weather balloon kind of ties into both,” Tankersley said. “We’ve been tracking the weather every day and we’ve talked about the air pressure and how it’s going to make the balloon pop when it reaches a certain altitude, so they’ve really been doing all of the project themselves.” 

This story continues below. 

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Students from Kilough Elementary School talk through a pre-launch checklist before launching their weather balloon on April 16. - photo by Erica Jones

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According to Tankersley, her students took charge of constructing the payload attached to the balloon, using weather patterns to

The project was funded through a grant from Sawnee EMC, and according to Tankersley, the launch has been a long time coming.  predict where it might land, organizing cameras to take photos and make a mini-movie of the launch and making a checklist of everything to remember before sending the balloon up in the air. 

“I actually got the grant two years ago and we were gonna launch it last year but then COVID happened,” Tankersley said. “So we’re launching it this year.” 

The giant balloon was attached to a string leading to a parachute, which was in turn attached to a string leading to the payload, three GoPro cameras and a GPS tracker which Tankersley displayed on her classroom smartboard to track the balloon’s flight. 

According to Tankersley, the way the project works is that the helium carries the balloon up as high as possible until the atmosphere becomes so thin that the balloon pops. The parachute then opens and carries the payload with its cameras back down to earth.

“We’re hoping to get images of the earth from above and just see where it travels,” Tankersley said. “Right now the prediction is somewhere in South Carolina, so we’ll have to drive to pick up our cameras after it lands.”