Project Ferociously Awesome Balloons

Lead Research Organisation: Helia Photonics
Department Name: Research


Project FAB's main aim to achieve an increase in the enjoyment of science lessons for primary school students. By doing this, we aim to increase the number of children wanting to pursue a scientific career. We also aim to increase the confidence of senior high school students in communicating scientific ideas, and teaching them to younger pupils. We hope that this will not only boost their chances of employment or acceptance to higher/further education, but will fuel their individual passion for scientific subjects. Another of our aims is to increase the confidence of primary school teachers in teaching science in a fun and engaging manner.

One of the main aims of our project is to inform young people about science. We plan to teach senior high school students the intricacies of the project and recruit them to help teach primary school children. This will give pupils a basic understanding of atomic structure, gravity, the relationship between temperature and pressure, greenhouse gases, and particle physics. Furthermore, we will help older students to expand this understanding by learning about cosmic rays, gravitational waves, and climate change. The high school students will help to lead lessons about high altitude ballooning, which will provide them with the opportunity to become more confident in their scientific knowledge and get first-hand experience teaching. During these lessons, we will carry out exciting experiments which will engage the children and make some of the more difficult aspects of our project easier for them to understand. We also aim to run an after school club for the high school students which will give them the opportunity to learn about microcontroller programming. We hope that giving pupils this basic knowledge of physics will inspire them to become more involved in science and pursue a career in science.

We aim to carry out four major experiments, consisting of three high altitude balloons, each measuring a different property of the atmosphere with the equipment attached.
With one balloon we aim to measure the change in magnitude of radiation, caused by high energy cosmic ray collisions in the upper atmosphere, as a function of altitude using a scintillating plastic. With a second balloon we aim to measure the change of gravitational force as a function of altitude, and demonstrate that objects do in fact fall at the same rate. We also hoe measure atmospheric temperature and pressure as a function of altitude. Our aim for the third and final balloon is to measure the concentration of Carbon Dioxide, Ozone, and Methane. Using the concentrations of Ozone, we aim to show that the absorption of UV radiation raises atmospheric temperature. Also, by comparing levels of Methane and Carbon Dioxide to pre-industrial revolution levels we aim to show that levels of these gases do contribute to global climate change. Our hope is that we can use these experiments to illustrate the things the pupils have learned in the classroom, as well as using images captured on-board to really spark their imaginations and love of science.

Planned Impact

As a team we intend to present our project at the annual event run by the Institute of Physics, The Conference of Astronomy and Physics Students (CAPS), which is hosted by a University every year and typically lasts 3-4 days during the summer. This conference is available to undergraduate and postgraduate students studying Physics or another related field; providing us with good scientific connections that enable us to successfully promote and publicise the project. We believe CAPS is a beneficial and rewarding experience that enhances scientific knowledge through the use of student/guest based lectures. This is turn will educate former students attending the event and make them more aware and interested in Project FAB. We hope to use the event as a platform to motivate our fellow students to run similar projects in their own areas, or attempt to bring more schools under the scope of Project FAB.

To communicate to the general public, we plan to use social media outlets Twitter and Facebook. On these platforms, we can easily inform the public of who we are, what we are doing and, crucially, why we are doing it. We also intend on setting up a web-page, which will have any and all information on the project. We also plan to use this to make our lesson plans and technical diagrams of learning aids open-source, so anyone who wishes to educate young children on science, be it through school, the Scout Movement, Boys' Brigade, Girl Guides or youth clubs has the capacity to do this.

We also intend on applying to give a presentation, or to have a stall, at the Glasgow Science Festival next year. This represents an excellent opportunity for us to introduce new schools to Project FAB, as well as informing members of the general public about our work. The festival also brings in many scientists from across the country. Our intention is to use this opportunity to explain our project to them, and to encourage them to run similar projects related to their field of work.


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