Makers Local 256 Wins First Prize in Weather Balloon Competition | Community Spirit
Makers Local 256, Alabama’s first hackerspace and makeshop, has just been awarded first place in the HackerSpaces In Space (HSIS) competition run by Workshop 88 in Chicago.
The contest goal was to launch a weather balloon to near-space altitudes (above 60,000 feet above sea level) and return with photographs showing the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space. Nineteen hacker spaces from across the country competed.
The HSIS competition is an event running from February to August where hacker spaces all over the country launch a homemade, custom payload into the upper atmosphere.
Each launch is scored based on vehicle weight, speed of payload recovery, and the cost to build and launch the vehicle. Makers Local 256 members launched a total of five times, designing and redesigning their payload over a period of 7 months before their official launch. All the effort paid off when the official flight came in first place. The balloon carried a camera payload which allowed it to take stunning pictures of earth up to 94,242 feet above sea level.
The Makers Local 256 team had to get creative to keep the weight and the costs down, hunting for inexpensive used digital cameras, scavenging lightweight Styrofoam and bubble wrap from discarded packing materials for insulation and padding, and even fashioning a parachute out of a trash bag. Tracking was attempted with a GPS-enabled cell phone. Due to altitude limitations, the team eventually used a home-built ham radio GPS tracker using from Bill Brown of High Altitude Research Corporation (HARC) instead. The payload weight came to 23.6 ounces and the cost to build and launch was $174.29. Apart from the competing workshops, the team also had to contend with extreme cold temperature of under -50 degrees Fahrenheit over 90,000 feet above sea level and keep the payload from falling apart at the end of its 90,000 foot drop.
· Ethan Chew
· Satyam Nayak
· Rohan Rana
· Matt Robinson
· Bill Brown
· Shane Wilson
· Erik Arendall
· Jeff Cotton
For more information about Makers Local or the HSIS contest, visit their website.