Class act sends weather bal­loon home

The London Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - JENNIFER BIEMAN

Lon­don asked and Penn­syl­va­nia de­liv­ered.

H.B. Beal sec­ondary school’s way­ward weather bal­loon is head­ing home, thanks to a kind­hearted Grade 4 class from north­ern Penn­syl­va­nia.

“We were all ex­cited about it. It’s pretty awe­some,” said Robert Rau­den­bush, a Grade 4 teacher at Port Al­le­gany el­e­men­tary school.

“It’s funny how things just fall on your lap.”

Beal’s high-flying ex­per­i­ment was only sup­posed to travel 150 kilo­me­tres, but drifted twice as far, cross­ing Lake Erie be­fore com­ing to rest in a moun­tain val­ley in ru­ral Penn­syl­va­nia.

When Beal teacher Dung Tiet ap­pealed to the lo­cal news­pa­per and took to so­cial me­dia to get the bal­loon back, about five peo­ple went on the hunt for the he­lium-filled zep­pelin, but pupils in the Grade 4 class weren’t among them.

In fact, the bal­loon found them. “Hunt­ing sea­son just ended here in Penn­syl­va­nia and a hunter spot­ted it, caught in a tree,” Rau­den­bush said.

The hunter called it in to the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Forestry and forester Wade Kisler, the fa­ther of one of Rau­den­bush’s Grade 4 pupils, went to see for him­self.

The de­flated bal­loon was 20 me­tres up, tan­gled in the branches of a tow­er­ing oak.

“He went out with his chain­saw and cut down the oak tree that it was in . . . Then he brought it to us here at the school and said, ‘Maybe there’s some­thing you can do with this,’ and we took it from there,” Rau­den­bush said.

He said he didn’t know the bal­loon’s story when it ar­rived.

How­ever, he called the phone num­ber scrawled on the out­side.

The sty­ro­foam box at­tached to the weather bal­loon is in rough shape, Rau­den­bush said, but the things in­side it — a $400 pay­load that in­cludes a GPS tracker, GoPro cam­era, weather com­puter and even an egg — is in­tact.

“We’re not sure what the pur­pose of the egg was that’s in­side, but I guess it was along for the ride,” he said.

Rau­den­bush’s class gath­ered to watch the video of the launch from Beal’s foot­ball field last Mon­day. They’re ex­cited for the new con­nec­tion they’ve made to the Grade 9 class.

“We feel like we’re now part of their story,” said Rau­den­bush, who is pre­par­ing to ship the bal­loon back to Canada.

“It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how things pan out from here.”

Even with all the high-flying hi­jinx, Tiet is not rul­ing out an­other ex­per­i­ment. “It’s a great story,” he said.

“We will learn from our mis­takes, and maybe make some new ones, but we’ll learn from these past ones.”


Penn­syl­va­nia State Univer­sity re­search as­sis­tant Aaron Fleish­man snapped this photo of H.B. Beal sec­ondary school’s miss­ing weather bal­loon dur­ing a hike on Satur­day in the north­ern Penn­syl­va­nia wilder­ness.

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