Science project: Hello Kitty at 94,000 feet

February 8, 2013

GoPro cameras weigh so little, work so well and are so tough that they go anywhere.  How we would have loved to attach one to the kites we sent a couple thousand feet above the Utah mountains.

Only time stood between the cameras and their use in high-altitude photography from weather balloons — even the topic of a credit card advertisement.  And now, a middle school science project, for a Christian parochial school (what science could a religious school foul up in studying the atmosphere?).

Four Go-Pros, a styrofoam box, a bunch of duct tape, a GPS-equipped locater (you could use a cell phone), some high-technology-now-cheap sensing equipment from High Altitude Science for temperature and air pressure — even a 7th-grade science project can make Galileo, Newton and Goddard jealous.

You can tell it’s 7th grade from the choice of the astroKittynaut to the choice of music, no?


Cornerstone Christian school 7th grade science project.
The effects of Altitude on air pressure and temperature.
Cameras: GoPro Hero2 video footage.
Edited By: Eddie Lacayo
Flight gear: High Altitude Science.
Flight computer / Data acquisition: High Altitude Science.
Tree Climber: Woodpecker Arborist.

music: We Are Young by: Fun (Feat Janelle Monáe)
We Do Not Own The Rights To This Song
buy at:…

This isn’t an ad for High Altitude Science, nor for GoPro (although if they want to send some products along for review, I would review them with full disclosure, and return what isn’t used up), but if you are inspired to try this, look at some of the details.

From High Altitude Science, a sales-pitch on how easy it is:

  • If you’re interested in starting your own space program, click here.
  • If you’re interested in purchasing weather balloons, satellite trackers, and weather balloon kits, visit our Store.
  • If you already have a weather balloon kit, but need some training or a refresher, read our Tutorials.
  • If you’re an educator who wants to inspire your students, visit our Education Page.
  • If you would like to see our products in action, visit our Videos Page.

I got my GoPro at REI; there are other vendors, and the new ones are very impressive.  High Altitude Science uses a special mount for the GoPro, which they sell with the camera.  For the project above, some of the cameras were borrowed.  Some adult supervision is needed — this package drifted more than 40 miles from the launch site; you want to be sure to avoid air travel lanes at launch (a lot of the Dallas-Ft.Worth area would be off limits); launching from Salt Lake or Utah Valleys could put the touchdown site 5,000 feet up in a wilderness area.  There are considerations on safety and recovery that require some thought.  When CNN tried it, they ran into problems — their account could be useful background (with cool photos, too).

What else could you do with these cameras and science project kits?  How about flying a kite, just to look at your town.  Attach a camera to a radio-controlled aircraft (a drone), and see what you can’t see of a wilderness area or riparian environment, or forest canopy, or rockface on a mountain.  Get the water-tight case, and put the thing into a river or lake.

A 7th-grade kid doing real science measurements at a Christian school — ain’t technology wonderful?

Is there gyroscope device to keep these devices from spinning so wildly?  Will the new GoPros support a radio contact to get images live from the device?


Film from the physics class at East Union High School in Afton, Iowa, showing more detail of the data collection and analysis:

A July 2012 launch from Austin, Texas:

A Vimeo version, for a launch from farther east (, that garnered coverage from the New York Times:

How many of these projects have there been?

Backyard birds: A convention of white-winged doves

February 8, 2013

The white dove was a short-lived interlude; the white-winged doves seem to be with us constantly.

One family in 2011; two families in 2012 — and our yard isn’t that big.

A very early version of the birds who visited, befriended, and plagued Snoopy — this drawing, while faithful to Shultz’s work, was done by another artist.

Earlier this week I looked out, and it looked like the early “Peanuts” comic strip when Snoopy opened his dog house to a group of pigeon-like birds for their poker game.  The birds took advantage of Snoopy’s largesse, and nearly over-ran him.  (Woodstock was a product of that flock of birds, the last remaining vestige by Charles Shultz‘s death.)

At least they didn’t drink our beer and try to make off with the Picasso.

White-winged doves are really too big for any of our feeders -- but what are you going to tell a rampaging herd of them?  Photos by Ed Darrell - use encouraged with attribution.

White-winged doves are really too big for any of our feeders — but what are you going to tell a rampaging herd of them? Photos by Ed Darrell – use encouraged with attribution.

White-winged doves crowding at the bird feeders

Enough doves to frighten Alfred Hitchcock — Two of these birds is too many for either side of this feeding station. How many do you see here?

White winged doves jostle for position at the feeder.

Not enough room for all, and so they jostle and push each other off the feeders. See the display of the white stripe on the wings of one of our subjects here, from which the species gets its name.

Blue jays enforce the “too-long-or-too-many-at-the-feeder” rules here, but they can be distracted by peanuts put out by neighbors.  In any case, they were absent when we needed them.

We used to have mourning doves, but at some point in the last five years this bunch pushed them out.  We may be the only ones on the block who noticed.  (Yes, it’s “mourning” dove; Duncanville’s having misspelled it on “Morning Dove Lane” is their error.)


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