Strategic Air & Space Museum: Conducting Scientific Research

One common objective for undergraduate science classes is to have students learn how to do scientific inquiry. However, often in science laboratory classes, students learn to take data, analyze the data, and come to conclusions, but they are told what to study and do not have the opportunity to ask their own research questions, a crucial part of scientific inquiry. Through support of NASA Nebraska Space Grant, the Strategic Air & Space Museum continues to provide students with the opportunity to conduct their own research through high-altitude ballooning. So far this year, several weather balloons with payloads attached (balloonSAT) have been launched to near space where the balloon bursts and falls back to the ground with a parachute. Such examples include the resent Husker game day experiment and launching Santa into near space during the Strategic Air & Space Museum’s Annual Holiday Air Affair.

Michael Sibbernsen, Science and Technology Coordinator at the Strategic Air & Space Museum, says, “High Altitude Ballooning gives Nebraska students the unique opportunity to fly their science projects in a space-like environment. Launching from Memorial Stadium during a Nebraska football game, makes it an experience they will never forget!”

Students work in small groups to ask their research questions, design their payloads, participate in the launch and retrieval of equipment, analyze data, and present the results of their research. This type of experience has potential uses in physics, physical science, engineering, electronics, computer programming, meteorology, astronomy, and chemistry classes. The balloonSAT experience can act as a stepping-stone to designing sounding rocket payloads and it can allow students the opportunity to participate in regional competitions and present at HAB conferences. Results from the workshops are shared, as well as student responses to the experience and suggestions for administering a high-altitude ballooning program for undergraduates or extending inquiry-based ballooning experiences into high-school or middle-school.

For more information on inquiry-based early undergraduate research using high-altitude ballooning, please click on the following link.

This poster was originally created to go on display at the 2012 American Geophysical Union Conference earlier this month and it is now on display at the Strategic Air & Space Museum during the month of January.  This marks a new and on-going effort to spotlight scientific research happening right here at the Strategic Air & Space Museum.