Science: KU Physics club to send GoPro into space

By Andrew Venzie
Contributing Writer

The KU Society of Physics Students is starting to put a few projects into motion. As a member of the club, I’m currently involved in a project involvingsending a weather balloon to the edge of space.

Taylor Worthington, another member of the team, says, “Balloons? In space?  You’re darn right we’re sending a balloon to space.”

The goal of the project is to be able to send a weather balloon to near space, so we can take images that would promote the entire KU science department. A GoPro camera will be mounted onto the balloon for the duration of its trip, and fixed in front of the camera will be a 3D printed Kutztown logo, created in the maker space in Boehm, the science building.

Team from physics club in charge of launch (left to right): Anna Faretty, Daniel Johns, Taylor Worthington, Austin Zimmerman, Andrew Venzie, and Erika Minnich – Photo courtesy of Jack Hovanek

If all goes well, the final image(s) will be of the Kutztown logo against Earth’s horizon. This is an image that will draw attention to Kutztown and get people interested in the university’s science program.

While our club currently does not have the necessary funds to finish this project, it is possible that we may succeed in getting a grant from the National Society of Physics Students to fund the trip. The club will soon be applying and feels confident that getting a grant shouldn’t be a problem.

Until the club receives this funding, we are laying out the groundwork to make this space trip possible.

We intend to order the Eagle Pro Weather Balloon Kit from High Altitude Science. The provided frame to hold the camera and KU logo is made of American basswood, which is just as light and durable as carbon fiber but more cost efficient. The frame is built in the shape of a tetrahedron, a triangular pyramid.

One of the biggest challenges of this project will be designing an apparatus to mount all of the equipment onto the frame that is sturdy enough to survive the fall back to Earth. The entire system, balloon included, also needs to ideally weigh under 12kg.

In addition to images, we are currently devising a way to get a live stream of the entire trip. In the case of not being able to find the weather balloon or the camera being damaged, we would still have the footage no matter what. While such an event is unlikely, it’s always best to be prepared.

We hope to have this project finished by either the end of this spring semester or early in the fall semester.

If you’d like to ask any questions about the project or join our club, don’t hesitate to attend the next Physics Club meeting. They are held Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. in Grim 301. The club accepts all students regardless of major, and we have projects for everyone.

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