Middle school scientists testing the limits of space - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Middle school scientists testing the limits of space

Balloon launch (Source: WAFB) Balloon launch (Source: WAFB)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - On a crystal clear morning in the middle of a baseball field in Carencro, Louisiana, Elkhan Akhundov leads a team of scientists on a mission into space.

His scientists are middle schoolers. Akhundov's team hopes to reach the edge of the earth's atmosphere with a whole host of high-tech experiments and low-tech ones as well. They'll study how pressure and light affects bacteria in pitre dishes and whether the pressure changes in spaces are enough to crack an egg."

“We're trying to get all of our students interested in STEM,” Akhundov says. “It's not that students don't have enough potential or capability. We need to increase their motivation.”

And what better way to motivate them than sending a weather balloon 90,000 feet into the sky and packing three video cameras to record the journey.

“What's exciting is that we'll be able to see the curvature of the earth,” says Austin James.

With a final check of the payload, the balloon is ready for launch.

“We believe these kind of things spark that interest,” Akhundov says.

The balloon will go all the way up to the edge of the earth's atmosphere where the pressure inside the balloon will cause it to explode sending all those experiments back to the ground. Then the chase is on.

“It's predicting that we're going towards west,” Akhundov says.

Akhundov drives while parents and students track the balloon's GPS readout. The trip will take more than two and half hours and take the scientists on a trip through Acadiana's Farmland.

After a minor setback, they track the balloon to a rice field in Crowley. Almost 20 miles from where it was launched. Excited students lead the way.

Their instruments say the balloon reached 97,000 feet before bursting and their view of the earth is spectacular.

“Science is very spectacular,” James says. “The things you can do in science is basically endless.”

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