U of R Balloon project flying high with national funding

Posted: March 18, 2015 12:50 p.m.

The U of R’s Dr. David Gerhard,(Computer Science) Stephen Cheng (Chemistry) and Mhmoud Essalah (Psychology) prepare to launch their National High Altitude Balloon Experiment
The U of R’s Dr. David Gerhard,(Computer Science) Stephen Cheng (Chemistry) and Mhmoud Essalah (Psychology) prepare to launch their National High Altitude Balloon Experiment Photo courtesy of: Stephen Cheng

One of the newest research projects at the University of Regina is based on the oldest form of flight.

Through collaborations, students are reaching for the skies to learn more about the atmosphere.

Dr. David Gerhard’s National High Altitude Balloon Experiment (HABEX) is one of 66 projects across Canada to receive funding from The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Promo Science Program.

NSERC says the program “supports hands-on learning experiences for young students and their science teachers.” Dr. Gerhard’s project is about sending balloons from across Canada to space to study the atmosphere.

“This started as a student project in my ‘Building Interactive Gadgets’ class.  A team of four students launched a ‘do-it-yourself’ balloon into space. It was so successful, and such a great learning experience, we wanted to make it easy for anyone to launch balloons into space, track them, and gather data and HD video,” says Dr. Gerhard, an  Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science.
 
So far seven universities and colleges across Canada are on board. The project also involves students at four high schools in the Regina area where students will be launching balloons and gathering atmospheric data for HABEX. The schools involved are Miller Comprehensive High School, Regina Huda School, Greenall High School in Balgonie and Lumsden High School. There are plans this fall to expand this program locally.

The project may have a lasting impact beyond the University. Right now Dr. Gerhard is working with schools in Saskatchewan to link the data gathered from HABEX to curriculum outcomes in the new Environmental Science 20 class to be offered at public high schools in the province.
 
“It’s very exciting to see the work we are doing be taken nationwide and embraced by high school students locally. And to have the University of Regina be the lead on this definitely brings a feeling of pride,” says Dr. Gerhard.

“Without the NSERC funding we would not have been able to get this project off the ground. We’re happy NSERC is focussing on cultivating interest in science in young people and the general public.”

For more information about the Department of Computer Science please visit: http://www.cs.uregina.ca/FutureStudents/WhyStudyCS/