Hook your ideas to a weather balloon
posted: May 06, 2013

On April 25, the Space Pole was flooded with kids and teenagers. That day, their self-made experiment was hooked on a weather balloon and took off to the border of space.

All-round and Hands-on

The balloon-experiment is an all-inclusive project. To start, the students have to excogitate an idea. In second instance, they have to think what do they want to measure, what is possible to measure? They have to figure out the technical details, test if the experiment functions and survives the extreme conditions in space - there are quiet some differences between the space and earth environment! When the experiment returns home, they need to analyse the results and draw conclusions. This is not so straight forward as it seems.

There is something for everyone: the smallest kids send seeds or eggs from the stick insect to space, the teenagers venture space physics: what about pressure, temperature, cosmic radiation?

Roeland Van Malderen, one of the key persons of the project: 'The balloon experiment shows how science works: it starts with an idea and after a long process you get the measurements and your results which you need to interpret. Maybe, one of those students chooses for a carrier as an astronomer, space expert or a carrier in meteorology and becomes a colleague.'

Let your ideas fly

The common factor is that they all work towards that particular exciting moment: the launch of the balloon with their experiment onboard. One of the youngsters: 'When the balloon left for open air, it was - how should I say it - thrilling! Our ideas were really flying.'

At the same time, it is an adventure - you don't know if your experiment will be successful: the balloon can disappear, de gondola can crash, is your experiment really space-proof?

Anne-Lize Kochuyt, from the planetarium, is clear: 'The most important is that these kids experience science besides learning a theory from a book.'

To deflate from the excitement, the 'maybe' scientists were guided through the Proba2 Science Center by Koen Stegen, our Proba2 operator and through the Solar Dome by our sunspot experts Frederic Clette and Laure Lefevre. Two STCE quizmasters, Jan Janssens and Petra Vanlommel checked if they had been listening well.

More about scientific balloons: http://www.asgard-balloons.webs.com