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WCSU Mentors Help Danbury Students Launch Weather Balloon

Westside Middle School Academy students support the weather balloon during the final stage of inflation before launch at the Danbury High School baseball field on June 6. Photo Credit: Peggy Stewart/WCSU
WCSU Meteorology Club member Jennifer Dums and WCSU graduate student Paul Shupenis check weather conditions for the weather balloon launch on June 6. Photo Credit: Peggy Stewart/WCSU

DANBURY, Conn. — Meteorology students from Western Connecticut State University provided mentoring and technical support for the STEM program at Westside Middle School Academy in Danbury to carry out the launch of two weather balloons on Saturday, June 6.

The launch was part of a lesson in the tools used to track upper-atmospheric conditions on a daily basis worldwide. Members of the WCSU Meteorology Club, under the guidance of Gary Lessor, club adviser and assistant to the director of meteorological studies, teamed up this spring with Westside instructor Jonathan Neuhausel and eighth-grade students in the middle school’s STEM program to plan the project and prepare the weather balloon payloads for launch.

The science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum is one of two core programs, along with global studies, offered at the Westside Middle School Academy.

Jennifer Dums, of Madison, a Meteorology Club member and WCSU Weather Center intern who graduated from Western in May with a B.S. in operational meteorology, worked with Neuhausel and Westside Academy STEM students to design and build two payloads for each of the weather balloons.

Three of the four payloads carried Arduino sensor packets that took altitude, pressure, temperature and humidity readings, which were recorded on computer chips designed to be removed for download and data analysis after retrieval.

WCSU mentors Dums and Paul Shupenis, of Naugatuck, a WCSU graduate student who earned his bachelor’s degree in meteorology in 2011, joined Westside Middle School Academy eighth-graders at the baseball field of Danbury High School for successive balloon launches at 10:54 a.m. and 11:24 a.m. on June 6. The first balloon launched touched down around 1 p.m. in Seymour, while the second balloon remained aloft more than four hours before touching down around 3:15 p.m. in Oxford.

Dums described Western’s participation in the project as a productive first step in building a collaborative relationship between the university and the STEM program at Westside, while also affording the Meteorology Club an opportunity to become more engaged with the Danbury community.

Dums mentored for the project as part of her internship at the Weather Center.

To view more photos and a video of the launch, click here .

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