News Channel 6 City Guide: Weather Balloon Project at Open Door Christian School

5th and 6th-grade students at Open Door Christian School in Graham worked all year on a weather balloon project that came to fruition on May 14.
Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 11:46 AM CDT
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GRAHAM, Texas (KAUZ) - The News Channel 6 City Guide is a segment that shines a spotlight on local businesses, events, and nonprofits across Texoma. In this episode, we’re taking you to Open Door Christian School in Graham, Texas. This school year, 5th and 6th-grade students worked on a weather balloon project that officially launched on May 14. We followed along their journey.

“I used to work at Boeing Space Exploration and part of that was sending up these weather balloons before a space shuttle launch. So, when I started teaching, I really wanted the students to get this big picture of what they can do with their knowledge,” Claire Meschkat, STEM teacher at Open Door Christian School said. “So, we started this weather balloon project knowing that I could show them what I did as an engineer and they could bring that into the classroom and apply what they’ve been learning all year long to do something really amazing.

Back in April, the students built the payload for the project. The students were broken up into different teams like payload specialists, mission control, and media specialists. The entire student body voted on a science experiment to include with the weather balloon. They decided to send up a raw chicken egg into the atmosphere to see what would happen to it.

“I’ve enjoyed building the project,” Nolan Wankowicz, a 5th-grade student on the mission control team said. “It’s been really fun because when I grow up I really want to be, like, an engineer and build stuff. I’m looking forward to when it lands. I really want to see where it is and where it ends up.”

After some weather-related delays, the official launch event was held on Friday, May 14, at the Graham Municipal Airport. On the first attempt to launch, the payload did not take off and instead took a nosedive into the ground. After regrouping and making sure nothing was broken or damaged, the balloon was filled up with more helium. Then it was time to give it another shot. The balloon and payload went up and away as a large crowd cheered.

“It was just incredible to see everything finally come together. We’d been anticipating this for months. Having an event at the airport and getting our kids to see things in aviation. They saw helicopters, gyrocopters, biplanes, there was an air tractor there. And then getting to see how all of those things have to use weather data that comes from a balloon that they worked so hard to send up. So, it was an amazing culmination of all of their hard work,” Meschkat said.

The recovery team searched early into the next morning and could not find the payload. But later that morning, Meschkat saw that the payload had moved on the GPS tracker map. She posted to Facebook hoping someone in the Bedford area lived nearby where the last ping on the GPS tracker had hit. It was found and local firemen helped get the payload of out a tree and get it back to Mrs. Meschkat and her students. A couple of days later, the students got to see the GoPro video and what happened to the egg.

“I really enjoyed, like, just looking at how far it went up into the atmosphere. The egg, it was pretty cool when it exploded. It was a little bit smaller than I expected. I thought it would go up into the air, but still, it was pretty cool,” Lucas Todd, a 5th-grade student on the mission control team said.

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