A class of UC San Diego undergraduate students experienced the thrill of hands-on science on Jan. 28 as they launched a weather balloon off the Scripps Pier. This experiment was part of a “Physics of the Atmosphere” class led by Assistant Professor Amato Evan, an atmospheric scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
The students assisted Evan and researchers from the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) with launching the helium-filled weather balloon to make a “sounding” of the environment. As the balloon travels aloft, it will relay information on temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind speed, and humidity back to the class via a small measuring device called a radiosonde. The budding scientists can also track the balloon’s location in real time via GPS.
“I’m glad there are classes offered at Scripps with these hands-on opportunities,” said Moon Pankam, a third-year student in the Environmental Systems Program at UC San Diego. “You really do learn a lot about Earth processes through these interactive experiences, rather than just sitting in a classroom.”
Pankam and fellow classmate Alex Fields had the unique opportunity to actually hold the balloon and release it during the launch.
With a huge smile on his face, Fields summed up the entire balloon-launching experience in one word: “amazing!”