Teens to send weather bal­loon to space


Two stu­dents are hop­ing send­ing a cam­era into space will in­spire other teens to aim high.

Al­bany Se­nior High School stu­dents, Ben Lewens, 17, and Cal­lum Smyth, 18, are plan­ning to launch a weather bal­loon with 360 de­gree cam­era far enough above New Zealand to catch sight of the earth’s cur­va­ture.

From try­ing to get busi­nesses to re­turn their calls for spon­sor­ship, they now have the sup­port of NIWA and Nikon, sup­ply­ing a bal­loon, helium, track­ing equip­ment and cam­era.

With their re­spec­tive in­ter­ests in en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence and avi­a­tion, Cal­lum said he’d al­ways been ‘‘in­trigued’’ with space and con­nected with Ben to try to see if there was a way they could com­bine their in­ter­ests.

Af­ter do­ing some re­search on us­ing weather bal­loons, Ben said they ‘‘wanted to see if - at a push two high-school­ers would be able to do it by them­selves’’.

In the sec­ond half of June, the pair are plan­ning to launch their weather bal­loon to around 100,000 feet.

Once it reaches that alti­tude, the bal­loon will burst and a para­chute will carry the equip­ment back to earth.

The gear - a 360 de­gree cam­era, capsule con­tain­ing a GPS spot tracker and a backup cam­era, and ra­diosonde - is joined to­gether with ny­lon.

In or­der to en­sure plenty of land­ing space, the bal­loon will be launched from Hop­uhopu in the Waikato.

Af­ter retrieving the cam­era, they plan to edit the footage of the view which they hope will en­com­pass ‘‘quite a lot of the North Is­land’’.

As part of their re­search, the friends also con­nected with Mar­ius van Ri­jn­so­ever, the father of a pupil at For­rest Hill School who led a project in 2016 to send a teddy up to space.

Ben and Cal­lum em­barked on the en­deav­our in mid-2016 as part of their school’s weekly Im­pact Projects pro­gramme.

It re­quires stu­dents to de­velop a project based on their own strengths and in­ter­ests.

They hope other stu­dents will see their project and re­alise what an Im­pact Project can be ‘‘if you make the most of it’’.

Both agreed their or­gan­i­sa­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills had also in­creased.

‘‘I think if you find a good idea and just stick to it, you can achieve quite a bit,’’ Cal­lum said.

Ben said the project had also been a way of chang­ing peo­ple’s per­spec­tives.

‘‘Be­ing a stu­dent doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make ev­ery­thing harder, so we can be seen as ac­tual adults in the com­mu­nity with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.’’


Year 13 stu­dents Cal­lum Smyth and Ben Lewens say they hope their project will in­spire other stu­dents.

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