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.