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German Students Send Balloon into Space with Help from Nordson

German BalloonTwo 10th grade classes at Geschwister-Scholl-Gymnasium in Germany recently sent a stratospheric probe into space with help from Nordson as a sponsor.

As part of their natural science and computer science courses, the students managed the project from start to finish – from the finances and planning to construction of the probe and test runs leading up to launch day.

"The students were very motivated, and all the test runs ran like clockwork!" Their physics teacher, Kathrin Weidmann, said.

When the day of the official launch arrived, the weather was crisp and clear – ideal conditions for the big day, allowing the probe to take spectacular pictures of the view into space.

After an enthusiastic countdown, the balloon began the hour and a half ascent that would bring it to a height of about 30,000 meters. Once the balloon's gas expanded its envelope in the 'thin' air of the stratosphere to about 10 meters in diameter, it burst and began to glide down to earth on a parachute.

At the end of the morning, a search troop of pupils, teachers and parents made their way to the place where a simulation program predicted the probe would land based on current weather data.

"But it was the worst case scenario!" Computer science teacher Ralph Carrie said. "The GPS tracker must have failed during the flight and made finding the probe impossible."

After several attempts to receive a GPS signal, the search party was canceled at dusk. Disappointed, they made their way home – But the story doesn't end there.

"The students showed a great reaction and did not want to accept the loss of the probe. The project became their main focus!" Biology teacher Markus Rommen said with a laugh.

The students turned to the public, using social networks, newspaper and radio to involve the community in the search for the probe. A month later they were still empty-handed and started to lose hope.

But as luck would have it, the probe landed in the tallest tree (about 25m high) of the Anne-Frank-School in Rheinkamp /Moers. The local physics teacher, Christian Eckold, recognized the balloon immediately when he spotted it. Recovering it from the tree wasn't easy, but he managed it.

A delegation of school principals, teachers, parents and students visited the Anne Frank Comprehensive School in Moers and brought along a Raspberry Pi as a gift for Eckold's physics class, an electronic component that can be used to connect various instruments for their class's next stratosphere flight.

Now, the Scholl students are eagerly evaluating the camera images and data they collected in space, including measurements of temperature, air pressure, coordinates, altitude and more.