Senior Innovations Hot Air Balloon Challenge

Senior Innovations Hot Air Balloon Challenge

In early January, Lysie and David’s 12th grade Innovations classes were given the following challenge:  ‘Your task is to design, build, and launch a high altitude helium balloon into space. You will be responsible for every aspect of the project including logistics, media, technology, and scientific data collection.” With little to no experience with high altitude balloons, students had to start by asking questions and figuring out what they needed to know in order to complete the task at hand. Throughout the eight week project, each of the four crews (each broken down into Media, Logistics, Mission, and Design/Tech teams) launched social media campaigns, planned a launch in Moses Lake, and designed and built a payload with functioning sensors.


Two teams even went through a secret merger, deciding to launch one payload attached to two balloons. The launches occurred on February 28, and all were successful. Retrieval, on the other hand, was a bit more difficult. The payload belonging to OutofSightSeattleite was tracked and retrieved from a field outside of Sprague, WA. The GPS for HabLabradors didn’t function properly, so that payload is most likely still in Eastern Washington somewhere. The double balloon payload belonging to Avocado Aviation and the Exosailors took the scenic route over Eastern Washington into Idaho. Although the crews could track where the balloon was to the meter, it was unattainable in the timeline of the field trip.

However, all hope was not lost. An alum and former employee living in Spokane, Rachel Havekost (Godbe) ‘07, answered the call for help and embarked on a two-day journey with her husband into the wilderness outside of Couer d’Alene. They finally found the balloon on the second day, after miles of snowshoeing and bushwhacking. Unfortunately, the payload was seventy feet up in a tree and was not coming down. They did, in true SAAS fashion, create a beautiful video documenting their adventure, and sent it to the class. With the trimester coming to a close, the students of the two crews thought they may never see their payload again. However, the SAAS community came through again. A family member of one of the students who resides near Couer d’Alene went out into the wilderness after getting some insight from Rachel’s video. On the second trip out, the payload was successfully retrieved! It is safely on the ground in Idaho, waiting to be picked up or mailed back to SAAS.

Although the project did not have the outcomes we were all expecting, the students were so impressive throughout the entire project in their professionalism and their ability to take on a huge, seemingly impossible task and knock it out of the park…or into the atmosphere.

Seniors are headed back from a successful high altitude balloon launch! 🎈

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