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Cockermouth teenagers to launch balloon into the stratosphere

Four year 11 students from Cockermouth School will be launching a balloon in to the stratosphere within the next fourteen days, a project they are undertaking to try to achieve a “CREST Gold” science award.

The sixteen year olds, Joe Moore, Jack Scott, Natasha Stannett and Poppy Watson, supervised by Jonathan Moore, have spent the past twelve weeks planning the launch.

Joe Moore said of the project: “When our GCSE exams were cancelled and schools closed early, we decided to sign up for a CREST Gold award. The Gold award requires each of us to spend at least seventy hours on a science related project. We have been conducting detailed research and tracking our progress on our blog at www.balloonx.edublogs.org.”

The four teenagers attended a STEM club at The Vicky in Cockermouth right up until lockdown, when their GCSE exams were cancelled. Natasha Stannett described the project: “Launching a balloon in to the stratosphere requires a lot of planning and research. We had to build the electronics board by soldering components on to it including a range of sensors to record pressure, temperature, sound and radiation. We have fitted two cameras to the payload, one of which will record 360 footage and one of which will record high resolution footage, so that we can view the entire journey.

“We all enjoy physics and are keeping our fingers crossed that all our hard work will lead to a successful launch and recovery. We are making tracking predictions daily now and will select a day which we hope will be conducive to a safe landing. We really don’t want to lose the balloon at sea, for example, with all that data and equipment onboard – so will choose our launch day and time carefully.”

The team named the balloon after John Dalton, a scientist who was born in Eaglesfield in Cumbria. He was hugely influential for introducing atomic theory to the world. Dalton has links to the team’s former primary school, Eaglesfield Paddle Academy. In view of this, pupils from the school were invited to design a mission badge for the balloon. The winning design has been made in to a badge that will go in to the payload for launch and is also featured on the team t-shirts.

The launch will take place at Mosser, a village near Cockermouth. Due to Covid current social distancing requirements, it is not possible for spectators to attend the launch. However, progress of the launch will be updated in real time on twitter, and footage and images will be made available after the event.

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