Particle physics experiments

Wharton High School physics students take their experiments to new heights at MOSI

Even though the SpaceX rocket launch was delayed until Sunday due to bad weather, conditions in Tampa were clear for Hillsborough County students to participate in the district’s first-ever high-altitude balloon launch at MOSI.

“We have hundreds of people here. Families have come from Hillsborough County Public Schools. We brought in our friends from Omaha to help us on our first launch, and everything went exactly as planned,” said Larry Plank, executive director of science. education with HCPS.

With the balloon reaching an altitude of over 80,000 feet, physics students at Wharton High School were able to take their experiments to new heights, collecting data from both the sky and the ground.

“We have four UV sensors, ultraviolet sensors, we have a layer of tape on it and we have different sunscreens, different opacities. They all have an SPF 50, but they’re a different brand, different consistencies. we’re trying to see how that would affect the amount of UV light that would enter the sensor, ”explained Dillon CAO, one of the senior physics students involved in the experiment.

After take-off, learning began as sensors and trackers on the balloon returned real-time data to those looking at the ground.

“We’re getting data, live feedback right now. We also have a few people chasing the ball. So we’re going to get those boxes back, we have a GoPro there, so we get a lot of great visuals as well. Then the students will analyze the data, ”Plank commented.

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The launch is part of Hillsborough Country School District’s goal to expose students to a more engaging STEM program.

“We have a deficit in our country. We don’t have enough kids interested in STEM,” Plank explained. “The kids can touch the ball and be part of the data gathering and the excitement, it will turn them on. It might just take a day, it could be this launch, and we might have a few hundred great scientists at it. come with us.”

Over the next three years, the district plans to dedicate $ 10.5 million in ESSER funding to expand its STEM program, providing students with more out-of-this-world experiences.

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