Near Space Balloon with the Chicago Housing Authority

An image taken by 757 Labs for the first Hackerspaces in Space

An image taken by 757 Labs for the first Hackerspaces in Space

Several years ago I started a competition called Hackerspaces in Space that invited makerspaces and groups all throughout the world to compete in a launch and retrieval of a weather balloon. Since ending the event the Global Space Balloon Challenge has picked up the mantle and carried it well, inspiring tons of other people to explore the edges where our planet meets space at low cost. In a way, the inspiring thing about this whole endeavor is, after all, the realization that touching the heavens is more attainable than we think.

This summer I’ll be co-leading a workshop for Chicago Housing Authority high school-aged students that encourages them to join the Maker movement in the learning of¬†fundamental fabrication and physical design skills. But in structuring the workshop, I kept on coming back to the problem of needing something inspiring for the students to work on. Learning by Making is more about the process than the end result (to quote Mythbusters, “failure is always an option”), and we needed something that was exciting to build up to, even if it failed.

We needed something that we could fail beautifully at.

And so I revisited the idea of launching near space balloons — the end result of the workshop being that students will join together in teams to build their own vehicles and vessels, and launch them.

In preparation for that, I’m also performing my own test launch with parts based off of a list provided by the Global Space Balloon Challenge. I’ll keep this blog updated with progress over the next couple weeks as we build and inevitably launch this monster into the stratosphere, but until then, here’s the beginning list. Feel free to use as you see fit to build your own near space balloon, and I’ll try to keep this updated with revisions as we inevitably find flaws during the build:

* 1 weather balloon inflator
* 1 weather balloons
* 1 near space parachutes
* 1 paracord line
* 1 gps tracker
* 1 epoxy
* 1 packs of foam board
* 1 hand warmers pack
* 1 cameras
* 1 altimeter modules
* helium (should be purchased toward end of program)
* 1 radar reflectors

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

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