Kids take photos of Earth's curvature using Balloon and Help from iPad

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Kids take photos of Earth's curvature using Balloon and Help from iPad

Oh kids these days get all the fun! I wish my science class (back in the day) offered our class a challenge to fly a cellphone with GPS & camera up into the stratosphere to take photos of the Earth's curvature. Alas, the closest I came was an egg drop contest, which was designed to teach about gravity, mass, and seat belt safety (don't ask). A firetruck ladder would drop our eggs in our homemade egg protection cases and see whose eggs survived the fall. See my glorious win along with the other winners from my 7th grade class. I'm the kid kneeling on the left with Jace Meola the kid behind me pretending he's going to crack an egg on my head.


But as fun as that egg drop contest was, that's nothing compared to what some Potomac School students got to try. According to the Washington Post, 7th and 8th graders had a challenge: Take a photo of the curvature of the Earth and spend just $200 to do it. Must have been a cheap cellphone that provided the GPS function and a cheap digital camera to leave enough in the budget for a decent high-altitude balloon.

The students met every other week throughout the year. They started with a digital camera, which they programmed to shoot photos and video several times a minute. They bought a cellphone that had a GPS function and loaded software that regularly relayed the phone's location to the Internet through a program called InstaMapper. Both phone and camera went in the cooler, along with hand warmers to keep the electronics warm in the stratosphere, where it would be 70 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Finally, the kids had to figure out what angle to hang the cooler so that the camera would get shots of the Earth's edge, not just a bunch of clouds. "It pushed all their math ability," Wiley said.
The kids used laptops, WiFi, and Instamapper to track the cellphone.

And then the launch day and photos. Here's one:
Image credit: Washington Post

Ok, so you can see it made it high enough to snap a photo of the earth's curvature, but would the on-board gadgets survive the extreme cold temperatures? Would it survive re-entry with its built-in parachute?

Read the article to find out.

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1 Comment

Hi, this is fantastic, when I was at school about 30 years ago this would have sounded like science fiction, I mean all of it, not just the task. Digital Cameras, cell phones, GPS, iPad, instamapper, interesting experiments, all Sci-Fi I tell you :-) The thing is I could gather the bits together and do this myself now, its all so easily available and pretty cheap too.

I might just give it a go :-)



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