This week, the second of our Explore weeks, was focused on Explore: Mechies! We began with a detailed discussion involving the whole class about the challenges we would face as we assembled the weather balloon, the parachute, and our payload. We then divided into small groups (five groups of five students, randomly assigned, and different from the previous week so that students could spend time getting to know different classmates), and researched our options. We wanted to make sure each student had a chance to think about the mechanics of pulling this off, and figure out what we need to put where, what we’re likely to forget, and what we need make sure we do!
Each group of students ended up tackling different aspects of the project, from the amount of helium we would need to achieve the correct ascent rates, to the difficulties of making sure our tracking devices would work in near space conditions. Once each group had finished their research, we met again as a group to share our findings, and discuss how we might best move forward. We came up with a lot of good ideas at this stage, including the idea of making sure the cameras are hanging at least 75 feet below the parachute… Given the North Florida / South Georgia terrain, and the likelihood our parachute might get caught up in the top of a very tall pine tree, we thought at the very least we could maximize the chances our cameras would at least be reachable. At the end of the week, each group handed in notes detailing their suggestions for how to solve the mechanical engineering problems we would face launching the torches into near space.