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Rowan-Cabarrus Community College wins highest altitude record for NASA space balloon launch

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

SALISBURY — For the third year in a row, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is one of the 10 colleges selected to participate in the N.C. Space Grant Team Design Challenge and Competition.

The college was recognized for the highest recorded altitude for launching the balloon 100,351 feet in the air.

“This was a great opportunity for work-based learning and provided a great experience of a real division of NASA for our students. The participants were able to learn the hands-on process of creating a real space balloon and simultaneously earned a scholarship to further their education,” said Zackary Hubbard, program chairman for the computer technology integration program.

The Space Grant Consortium is led by North Carolina State University. As part of NASA’s proposal to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics education at community and technical colleges, the consortium was selected to receive the 2014 Space Grant Competitive Opportunity for Partnerships With Community Colleges and Technical Schools.

Each team designed, engineered, tested and launched a high-altitude balloon to the edge of space. Team members were responsible for conducting a specific experiment with measurable results while their balloon was in flight. Each balloon was equipped with a camera and GPS, which aided in the recovery of the balloon.

“We know how hard the students and advisers worked on this project. We were excited to see the growth in learning of the returning teams, as well as what new teams had to offer to the challenge and competition,” said Sandy Canfield, assistant director for partnerships and resource development with NASA and North Carolina Space Grant.

“The balloon landed approximately 100 feet above average ground terrain in a white oak tree. Several attempts were made with fishing line to obtain the parachute and pull the balloon out of the tree but were unsuccessful. It was an incredible learning experience for the team,” said Aaron Cameron, Rowan-Cabarrus instructor.

The grant establishes the Team Design Challenge and Competition for faculty and students across the state to increase STEM education featuring NASA content.

The college also launched a weather balloon in honor of the solar eclipse. The balloon exceeded the altitude of the previous launch, soaring 19.5 miles into the atmosphere.

“We had nearly 500 students, faculty and staff join us for our solar eclipse party,” said Natasha Lipscomb, executive director for student success on south campus.

The college also hosted two seminars in the week leading up to the solar eclipse, featuring Jack Howard, solar system ambassador for NASA.

Howard, a former full-time faculty member at Rowan-Cabarrus, still teaches physics and astronomy part time.

Howard spoke on public radio numerous times in advance of the eclipse.

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, visit www.rccc.edu or call 704-216-7222.

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