CPCC, other colleges, receive NASA grant to launch weather balloons, conduct research

last modified Apr 13, 2015 01:37 PM

Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) is one of four local community colleges where STEM program students will launch weather balloons with payloads of sophisticated weather-reading equipment through grants provided by NASA.

STEM students and faculty members from CPCC, Catawba Valley Community College (Hickory), Mitchell Community College (Statesville), and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (Salisbury and Concord) have received up to $10,906 per college from NASA to build balloon payloads that include equipment such as barometric pressure and temperature sensors, cameras, radio transmitters, GPS trackers, and small computers to measure acceleration and store the collected weather data. The grants also cover travel expenses and professional development for faculty.

The teams of six STEM students per college will design, engineer, test, launch and hopefully recover the helium weather balloons and their unique payloads that will travel approximately 20 miles high to the edge of space. NASA is providing the helium balloons and recovery parachutes. The student teams will design and build their payloads with equipment purchased through the grants.

The teams will launch their balloons at 7:30 a.m., on Sat., April 18, at the Iredell County Fair Grounds, in Troutman.

The CPCC team members are Andrew De Piante, Ben Elrod, Jeremy Henry, Tim Lawrence, John Sansbury and Jerod Zimmerman.

“The students are learning how to work in teams, integrate different technologies and manage a complex engineering project,” said Dr. Terence Fagan, CPCC’s Engineering Transfer and Fad Ed Carolina chair. “This is a great experience to apply and re-iterate what they’re learning in their engineering classes and tackle real engineering challenges. This is a fully integrated, cross-disciplinary project, drawing from all of the STEM areas – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

After launching and recovering its balloon, each team will document its design work and the weather information it collected. The teams will present multi-media reports and participate in at least two NASA teleconferences. NASA team members will be present at the balloon launches and recovery. Those teams that complete all of the project requirements will receive $6,000 in NASA scholarships -- $1,000 per team member. In addition, team members who successfully complete all phases of the project will receive a $500 scholarship from the North Carolina Space Grant.

CPCC offers several programs of study and courses within its STEM division. These include:

Science: Biology, Astronomy, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Physical Science, Physics.

Technology: Computer Science, Computer Technology Integration, Computer Programming, Database Management, Digital Forensics, Information Systems Security, Network Technologies, Web Technologies.

Engineering: Calculus-Based Engineering Transfer, Civil Engineering Technology, Surveying Technology, Computer Engineering Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Electronics Engineering Technology, Machining Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics Engineering Technology.

Mathematics: Developmental Studies, Algebra, Trigonometry, Statistics, Calculus, Differential Equations.

For more information about STEM programs of study at CPCC and STEM career fields, see www.cpcc.edu/stem, or contact Bruce Johnson, CPCC associate dean of STEM, at Bruce.Johnson@cpcc.edu or 704.330.6073, or Chris Paynter, CPCC dean of STEM, at Chris.Paynter@cpcc.edu or 704.330.6531.