Hunstanton pupils reach new heights with balloon launch

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A helium balloon made of latex was launched from the playing field at Hunstanton’s Glebe House School to the edge of space on Saturday morning and it returned with inspirational camera footage.

Glebe House headmaster John Crofts said; “The high altitude balloon launch was supported by the Raspberry Pi Foundation as part of its Skycademy programme, intended to encourage children to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, especially computing.”

Pupils George Waddison, Sam Stonebridge, Emma Carnell and Jessica Jamieson helped the school’s head of computing Bill Nicholson launch the balloon, assisted by Sue Gray (Fakenham Academy) and Glebe parent Kevin King, after a couple of technical hitches with the GPS system that delayed the planned take-off time until 11.15am.

Bill Nicholson and Sue Gray formed one third of team stratus at the Skycademy, and had undertaken training to cover all the vital elements necessary to run a near-space project.

Inflated with helium, the balloon rose quickly flew over the school and disappeared from sight but with two GPS trackers attached to the payload of a polystyrene box containing the camera, the launch team followed the flight path in the mini-bus tracking the progress of the balloon across the county.

Predicted to land near the A11 Old Buckenham area, the balloon first headed out over the Wash.

But as it rose to about 7000 metres, about 20 minutes into its two-and-a-half hour flight, it turned and progressed inland travelling over Snettisham, Bircham, East Rudham Dereham and Wymondham before landing close to the B1135 near Low Tharston.

The balloon is quite small at ground level, but as it ascends it increases in size until at it’s highest point it bursts and parachutes back to earth so it can be recovered by the chasing team.

Reaching a maximum altitude of 26,522 metres, the on-board camera captured images of near space that students and teachers at the school were able to view in real-time in the computing laboratory and on iPads.

The event was part of the school’s open day.