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UOIT heads to the outer limits

UOIT weather balloon

Students prepare to launch the weather balloon during the Science Rendevous at UOIT on May 9.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Students from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology got to glimpse the edge of space recently after launching a helium-filled weather balloon into the upper atmosphere.

The project, part of UOIT’s Science Rendenvous on May 9 to promote science awareness in the community, is also part of a larger, Canada-wide High Altitude Balloon Experiment (HABEX).

“It was great to see so many people interested in launching this balloon,” said Kyle Mills, a recent graduate of the UOIT physics program, in an emailed response to The Express.

The balloon, equipped with weather sensors and a camera, captured information and images from its approximately 30-kilometre journey into the upper regions of the atmosphere.

Mills says professors at UOIT are planning on incorporating some of the data collected into their classes and courses next fall.

This wasn’t the first time UOIT launched one of these balloons. In April, a balloon was launched from a Huntsville location. However, a few issues arose, including the balloon’s GPS locator malfunctioning and the camera batteries depleting rapidly, perhaps from the extreme cold temperatures at high altitude. As well, the sensors measuring altitude and pressure failed completely.

Mills says the second launch went much smoother after a few modifications to the device.

“For this launch, we really wanted to get complete data and to at least get video to the peak altitude where we hoped to witness the balloon bursting,” he says. “We modified the payload to use higher capacity lithium batteries, which are better at low temperatures, insulated the container with Styrofoam and included chemically-activated hand warmers.”

The team successfully captured the exact moment the balloon burst, after hovering high above the Earth, video of which is available online.

Sadly, the video of the landing was lost when data was corrupted, perhaps from the violent landing, Mills says.

To view the video and pictures from the launch, visit