Balloon flies high

(May 24, 2013) — Alex Deravanessian and Guy Burstein created something for their senior projects which may help further research on alternative energies: a high-altitude weather balloon. Deravanessian’s final product is the solar panels that he made for the balloon, and Burstein’s is the rest of the balloon itself.

This is the second year that Clark has sent up a weather balloon, and Deravanessian has been part of creating and launching both. This year, however, he took the lead alongside Burstein, and they were assisted by three juniors from Robotics Club. “I was inspired by the fact that space is vast and beautiful, and the view from that height is amazing,” Deravanessian said. The five of them decided to build on the structural skeleton that had been made the year before.

Deravanessian was in charge of building the balloon and Burstein took on the job of programming the boards and logging data after the balloon came back. They ended up making two balloons, as they had leftover parts from the first. The second balloon actually went up higher than the first — 110,000 feet compared to 80,000 feet — because it had not been overfilled with helium. The first had three cameras on it in order to document the balloon’s burst after its two and a half hour long ascent into space.

In previous years, the club members encountered some problems, but this year was different. Deravanessian used lithium batteries and expanded memory cards to prevent the loss of either, since both of them had stopped working last year. Robotics Club advisor David Black and his brother, Todd, assisted at every step by providing the equipment, oversight and help with wiring.

“The most difficult part was making sure the balloon could survive the environment in near-space,” Burstein said. “It’s a lot more extreme than down here so we had to be sure nothing would go wrong for the entire flight.”

Deravanessian does not want to stop building high-altitude weather balloons yet. “I intend to try to build another one in college, in the near future,” Deravanessian said.