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Up, Up & Away: Students Learn Aerospace Through Trial & Error

By Dillon Thomas

DENVER (CBS4) – Many students at East High School, in Denver, spent their school day on Monday participating in a science project they envisioned months ago.

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(credit: CBS)

Students created a weather balloon, fit with cameras and electronics, which would test the atmosphere's carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels.

The balloon would also test the UV rays before capturing an image of the earth from 100,000 feet.

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(credit: CBS)

When the students went to launch the balloon, they were met with a challenge. Previous calculations by the completely student-ran team didn't factor in for the unexpected weight increase of their electronics and the greater demand for helium.

The balloon didn't launch, and instead was weighted down to the ground.

"The batteries weigh about as much as the housing does," said Hans Gaensbauer, an East High School junior.

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(credit: CBS)

The students quickly improvised, using calculators and measuring utinsels to figure out what adjustments they could make.

Ultimately, the team got rid of a spare GPS device that was attached and put more helium in the balloon.

"If I have done my math right, this thing will have the upward force, equivalent to the downward force, of a tenth of a kilogram," Gaensbauer said.

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(credit: CBS)

With a crowd of fellow students watching, the second launch was a success. The balloon, and the electronics, left the East High School property and headed west in its assent.

With their balloon successfully collecting data, students said they were not surprised the first launch failed.

"It was student-designed, student-built," said Kacey Tanner, a sophomore. "We didn't really expect it to work the first time, but we are glad to make it work in the end."

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(credit: CBS)

"We only really had time in school to work on it, in the last couple weeks," Gaensbauer said.

Several hours after the balloon launched, it expanded as it reached the 100,000 foot mark in the atmosphere. Ultimately, the balloon exploded, sending the electronics back to earth via parachute.

Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.

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