The Duke Balloon Project is an endeavor put forth by 14 Pratt School of Engineering students to send a helium balloon to 100,000 feet – the edge of the earth’s stratosphere – with the goal if collecting of interesting atmospheric data for further analysis while documenting the entire process through videography to garner some incredible terrestrial footage of the earth and develop crucial design and teamwork skills.

The project is a portion of the EGR190 class, taught by Professors Neal Simmons and Greg Twiss. The class is meant to be a follow-up to EGR121, Innovations in Engineering. The purpose of the class is give students the opportunity design and perform their own experiments, as well as to push theoretical concepts learned in class into actual physical results. The first part of the class was to use schematics and provided materials to machine and put together a gyroscope, a task based off a similar project performed at UC Davis. The gyroscope project teaches students how to utilize the machines and resources of the Pratt Student Shop, something all students in EGR121 are required to obtain certification to use. The majority of the class is devoted to the design project. A past project was to design a water show. This year, the professors provided the class with a few materials, including a ham radio, parachutes, and balloons. We were given almost complete freedom over what we would do. The Project is set-up into two sub group, each having their own separate balloons, payloads and goals for each payload.


Team 1: is comprised of Project Manager and Sophomore ME, Jack Siman, Junior ME, Keith Sobb, Junior ME, Henry Quach, Sophomore ME, Joshua Furth, Sophomore ME, Chase Beason, Sophomore ME, Elijah Weinreb and Sophomore ME, Tyler King.

Team 1’s payload consists of a sealed insulating container. Data will be collected using an Arduino microcontroller, and will be collecting temperature, pressure, ozone, acceleration, orientation, and ambient light measurements. The container was reinforced using plastic rods and metal sheets to provide stability, while the inside was packed with packing foam to provide a support for the electrical components within. The Arduino itself was mounted on an interior wall of the container, with the external sensors protruding from one side, with all data being contained on an SD card. On another side, a GoPro camera was mounted in a case on the side to capture images. Initially it was looked into directly streaming the GoPro footage, but the idea was scrapped due to technical and weight constraints. In order to track the trajectory of the balloon a GPS device is inserted into the payload that provides live updates on the position of the payload. In addition a HAM Radio sends redundant GPS telemetry using the APRS system (see aprs.fi and look for callsign W9RGT).


Team 2: is comprised of Project Manager and Junior ME, Kyle Dhindsa, Junior ME Raya Islam, Junior ME Connor Guest, Sophomore ME Ann Marie Guzzie, Junior BME/ME Sachin Goval, Junior ME Uzoma Ayogu and Junior ME Stan Fox.

Team 2’s payload consists of an arduino microcontroller connected to  a pressure sensor, a temperature sensor and an ozone sensor. The microcontroller is housed within the structural payload housing with the sensors protruding out of the housing and being exposed to the elements to collect appropriate data. All collected data is stored on a SD card via an open-logger that is connected to microcontroller. Juniors Connor Guest and Uzoma Ayogu were in charge of developing the electronics for the Team.

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