SHERIDAN — While the world of science is vast and endless, students at the Wyoming Girls’ School in Sheridan are getting a close-up view on how it’s used in the real world.
On Friday, students and faculty at WGS launched a weather balloon into the Sheridan skies. The balloon allowed students at the Sheridan educational facility to work with real-world science practices.
In the past several years, state standards have pushed new STEM programs, or programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
According to the STEM Education Coalition website, these subject areas play an important role in enabling America as the economic and technological leader in the world. They have placed additional emphasis on getting female students into higher-education and STEM-related career paths, as well.
Nikki Collins, a science teacher at WGS, said due to the push to incorporate STEM into their curriculum, she worked on different ways to get applied science in front of her students.
She eventually got in touch with the Wyoming NASA Space Consortium Coalition to do a weather balloon launch at the school.
“We’ve been making this happen since the beginning of September, end of August, so it’s been a work in progress,” Collins said.
Collins and other staff members were able to collaborate with Phil Bergmaier with the Wyoming NASA Space Consortium grant to do the balloon launch. The grant sponsors educational and research programs in the state. Bergmaier, who splits his time between finishing his doctoral program in atmospheric science at UW and working with the Wyoming NASA Space Consortium, travels around the state to do balloon launches for youth about once per month.
“It’s just a fun thing for me to be a part of,” Bergmaier said. “Every time I do it, the kids always love it.”
In that month’s time it took to set up the launch, the school aligned part of its science curriculum with the launching of the weather balloon; putting emphasis on weather science and physics, among other subjects.
Weather balloons are commonplace in the atmospheric science world. Through the balloons, data on weather conditions among other vital scientific discoveries can be collected.
The balloons can ascend anywhere between five to 100 feet per second and will eventually pop near 100,000 feet in the air.
There was no hiding that the students were excited about the balloon launch Friday. They got to decide what goes into the payload attached to the balloon, which included science experiments, food, gum, bubble wrap to see how it would react near the top of the atmosphere.
Afterward, faculty and students will use the information provided by the balloon for discussion in class. They will also get to track down the balloon and the payload after it comes crashing down to the Earth.
“It’s just a great thing to get these kids excited (with science),” Collins said.