Every engineer starts out with a dream. A young aspiring engineer of just 7 years of age decided (with a little help) to pursue his engineering dream by giving it a kick-start/swing through hitting a golf ball into (near) space.
Young 7-year-old Nathan helped initiate the launch of a golf ball bound for space by striking it with his club. The ball, attached to a weather balloon soared into the stratosphere reaching an altitude of 95,500 feet (18.1 miles / 29.1 km). Technically speaking, it is the world’s longest (assisted) golf shot.
Before the launch, Nathan, accompanied by his brother Joey Switzer, precisely calculated the amount of helium required to take up the apparatus high into the atmosphere. Precision is key to maximize altitude due a few key factors: buoyancy must be maximized while simultaneously considering expansion of the balloon that eventually causes it to pop, sending the apparatus hurdling back towards Earth. Also, as every 100m that is climbed, the temperature goes down by approximately one degree. Towards the center of the stratosphere can reach temperatures drop to -80 Deg f (-62 Deg C), which can easily kill a battery.
After all things were considered, – 68 cubic feet of helium was pumped into a
600g Kaymont weather balloon in order to hoist the 8x8x5″ Styrofoam cooler containing the camera, and tracking equipment.
After approximately 3 hours of flight and transverse 112 miles, the golf ball which took off in Bedford, PA landed a few towns over in Glen Rock, PA.
“There was certainly a lot that went into planning, constructing the payload, attaching the parachute and string, filling the balloon, and launching it simultaneously with the golf ball. More than any of these however, the real challenge (and most important one) was recovering the payload when it returned from the stratosphere so we could watch whatever our video cam recorded! In order to track the balloon/payload, we used the Find My iPhone app on an old iPhone 4s.”
Everyday, the next generation of engineers are born. It is imperative that young minds challenge conventional methods of thinking and build upon ideas. That is where innovation is born. However, every engineer has a starting point in which the dream must first be born. In order to progress and inspire a dream, it is up to the engineers of today to pass down their knowledge so the cycle of learning and innovation can be passed down. Young Nathan, just a seven-year-old with a dream to become an engineer, set out and took a step- or rather a swing in the right direction of heading down the long, and incredibly exciting road where every young engineer starts- of course, with a little assistance along the way.
[Image Source: Joey Switzer]