HUDSON, North Carolina (May 26, 2022) – A group of students from Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute (CCC&TI) and Caldwell Early College High School (CECHS) have reached new heights – literally.
The group, named Kármán Seekers, participated earlier this spring in the statewide NASA/NC Community College Space Grants High Altitude Balloon Competition at Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) in Hickory, having only reached first place by a few points. .
CCC&TI tied with Wake Tech for second place in the all-around, with Nash Community College leading the competition standings. At 92,205 feet, the CCC&TI team was just 1,500 feet from the competition’s maximum altitude. The team won the prize for the landing site closest to the intended landing site approximately 15.5 miles away. The ball landed near the Alamance and Chatham county line in a wooded area. The next closest competitor landed his balloon 26 miles from the intended site.
The competition, which lasted approximately 6 months, had several components ranging from the design of the balloon payload and launch system to community outreach. The main objective of the competition was to design, build and launch a payload equipped with sensors and cameras, carried by a helium balloon, to the outer reaches of space (20 miles away) and hopefully, retrieve it.
The Kármán Seekers, named after the Kármán line that represents the barrier between space and the Earth’s atmosphere, were one of five teams that were able to accomplish this mission. The team designed, built, launched and successfully recovered the payload with photos and videos of the entire flight. The balloon and payload, flying from CVCC to the Pittsboro area, reached nearly 17.5 miles in altitude and were recovered completely intact. Total flight time was approximately three hours and 146 miles east of the CVCC campus.
The team was made up of seven students from CCC&TI and CECHS. Team members included two co-captains: Zach St. Pierre and Brianna Campbell. Other team members included: Charles Hagaman, Daniel Ward, Lila Bennett and Sarah McLean. Cameron Williams, a CECHS student, also participated as a student helper. The team’s teacher mentors were: Lucas McGuire, Denise Williams, Mandy Williams and Mel Rhoney.
“This project provided a great way for students to work as a team and showcase the varied skills they learned at our institution,” said McGuire, CCC&TI program director for biomedical equipment technology and patient technology. Electronic Engineering. “I couldn’t be more proud of the effort and performance of the students, as well as the support of the faculty and administration.
The team’s victory and space travel extended beyond competitors and advisors. As part of the project’s community outreach, CCC&TI library staff organized an art contest for students. The winning artwork, designed by Matthew Boyle, decorated the balloon payload with a colorful logo to accompany the return tag in case the team couldn’t find it upon landing. It was a campus-wide effort, McGuire said.
Congratulations to the Kármán researchers and their hard work in this competition.
Support the Caldwell Journal for as low as $1 per month through Patreon. Thanks!