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PA Cyber successfully launches weather balloon at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Sep 21, 2017

Students and staff from PA Cyber Charter School successfully launched a weather balloon Wednesday afternoon from the highest elevation at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Though it took two attempts—the second try required additional helium—science club students and advisor Erin Butler were successful in getting the large, white, helium-filled balloon to lift off.

"I thought it went really well and the bobble was ok with me. Mistakes are made in science and I'm pretty sure I know what it was looking back," said Butler, who teaches science.

Measuring about 5-6 feet in diameter, the high-altitude latex balloon carried a payload—instruments including a camera, temperature and pressure sensors, and GPS locator— that sent back information on atmospheric pressure, temperature and wind speed.

After the 1 p.m. launch, the balloon landed at 3:52 p.m. in Natrona Heights, based on the computer data that was recovered. It took awhile to locate the balloon, which was in hand by 4:40 p.m. The payload was recovered along with its data.

The balloon reached a top altitude of 101,949 feet, or 19.3 miles.

Classmates, parents and staff watched the 1 p.m. launch live during PA Cyber's annual Pittsburgh Zoo Rendezvous, a back-to-school outing for students and their families.

Quarrie McGuire, past science club president and vice president, was one of the students who came up with the idea to launch the balloon. He said the science club coordinated with the maker club to have the launch at the Zoo Rendezvous.

Photography club and newspaper club students also attended, along with members of the Western Pennsylvania Amateur Radio community.

Quarrie couldn't have been more pleased with the outcome after waiting nine months.

"It went brilliantly," Quarrie said.

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.