Up and Away: Students Launch Experiments Skyward

SPARKS, NV - With a countdown of "five, four, three, two, one" and the cheers of all gathered, ten weather balloons lifted off from the campus of Dilworth STEM Academy in Sparks Thursday morning. (STEM, by the way, stands for science, technology, engineering and math.)

Dangling underneath were 12 pound payloads that included solar dust collectors, cockroaches, even human blood.

They were all elements of scientific experiments designed by students at the middle school to test the effects of low pressure, extreme cold and increased radiation at high altitudes.

Each was a product of a hands-on approach to learning science.

"I think they're going to see how the scientific process works out," says Matt Oates, the school's STEM coordinator. "They're going to learn about trial and error and they're going to actually see their experiments either come to fruition or not. both are equally valid learning opportunities."

The balloons were expected to rise as high as 120,000 feet, near the threshold of space where the balloons would burst, sending the payloads earthward by parachute.

Inside each is a GPS device that should allow recovery.

That's an important addition because the balloons may travel as far as 100 miles from Sparks during their flight A team from the University of Nevada hopes to find all the payloads and then work with the Dilworth students to interpret the results.

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