Close this search box.
January 2019 TCA Cover: High Altitude Ballooning slide

High Altitude Balloons: The Elevation Education 

Kelly Shulman at NASA
Teacher Kelly Shulman, VE3KLX, meeting with astronaut Charles Bolden at NASA.
Kelly Shulman, VE3KLX

Kelly Shulman, VE3KLX, is a Computer Science, Physics and Math Teacher from North Bay, Ontario. She received her Amateur Radio certification in the spring of 2017 through an interest in High Altitude Ballooning and joined the North Bay Amateur Radio Club at that time. She has written several articles about the High Altitude Balloon (HAB) program for The Canadian Amateur magazine.

Her first article in the January-February 2019 TCA was called “High Altitude Ballooning: The Elevation Education”. Here is an excerpt:

“On Monday, October 29, the Grade 11 Physics students of West Ferris Intermediate Secondary School in North Bay, launched a camera-toting high altitude balloon payload to Earth’s stratosphere, under the direction of their teacher Kelly Shulman.

This near space mission had three primary goals: to challenge the students with a real-world engineering problem; to record experimental data that could be used to examine course concepts; and to provide contextual anchors that will help students understand and retain Physics concepts, such as terminal velocity and the conservation of energy in a closed system.”

A follow up article  in the January-February 2020 TCA was called “Going to Goddard: Connecting Space to the Classroom”:

“On October 5, 2019 I had the privilege of delivering a presentation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland about the stratospheric balloon program that I run at West Ferris Secondary School in North Bay, Ontario. The GSFC is the largest combined organization of scientists and engineers in the United States dedicated to increasing knowledge of the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe via observations from space. It is also the site of a major US laboratory for developing and operating unmanned scientific spacecraft.

The invitation to the event came about as a result of our school’s most recent high altitude balloon (HAB) mission which we called the ‘Moonshot Mission’ or the ‘Flight of Apollo 19’.” This project was also detailed in the July-August 2019 issue of TCA magazine.

Kelly Shulman’s excellent presentation on the High Altitude Balloon program is available for viewing on the RAC YouTube Channel.

Past Events

Manitoba Schools launch High Altitude Balloons (HABs): 

The following items is a reprint of a news item about an event in 2017:

Eight schools in Manitoba will be launching High Altitude Balloons (HABs) tomorrow Thursday, May 4, 2017. The launches will take place from Langruth Elementary School in Langruth, Manitoba located near the west shore of Lake Manitoba. Their students will be able to watch the launches live. Flight time is just under 2.5 hours. The landings will occur near Lowe Farm, a farming community in southern Manitoba west of Morris and the Red River. It’s a great region to land in. The weather is expected to be great with a few clouds, light surface winds and a high of about 20 degrees.

In preparation for the event, Manitoba Association of Physics Teachers (MAPT) President, Heidi Werner, on Thursday, April 13, hosted the final Manitoba HAB schools meeting prior to the flights. In addition to St. James Collegiate, the schools represented were Fort Richmond Collegiate, Garden City Collegiate, River East Collegiate, Sisler High School and West Kildonan Collegiate. Other schools planning to fly this spring but not represented at the meeting were Maples, Shaftesbury, Carman, HC Avery and Immanuel Christian. Sisler teachers attended the meeting and will be observing the flights. They plan to join the fun in 2018.

St. James Collegiate provided three balloon filling tubes fabricated in their industrial arts shop to three of the new Manitoba HAB schools. The St. James HAB uses a new high visibility painted payload (St. James has developed a special primer for spray painting foam board). Their payload includes a new Mobius HD video camera.

A cheaper 1 watt Byonics APRS HAB tracker was shown off by Dean Hallick, VA4ADH, from River East Collegiate as well as a new Kenwood D72 handheld dual band APRS transceiver which will be used to track the River East HAB (see

Fort Richmond Collegiate teacher Jennifer Piasecki, VE4JPI, reports that they will bring a very large team this year, roughly 30 staff and students. The team will include alumni Pardeep Mathode, VA4PWM and Jared Kozak, VA4CAN. The payload will include a television transmitter and a handmade glider with the classic Spitfire elliptical wing. Fort Richmond Collegiate will share a T-tank of helium with Shaftesbury so these teams will set up beside each other at the launch site.

Four Seven Oaks School Division schools are participating this year. They will be set up in close proximity at the launch site. Garden City Collegiate has a new Yaesu mobile APRS tracking radio (FTM-400XDR) which will be installed in teacher Barb Gajda’s (VE4PAZ) car. The Garden City HAB will measure UV intensity and it will include an ozone sensor. The payload will also carry a plasmid genetic damage experiment. Plasmids are short pieces of bacterial DNA. The returned plasmids will undergo gel electrophoresis to determine to what extent the molecules have been fragmented by exposure to high altitude radiation. The new Garden City payload is a sphere. This will hopefully reduce rotation of the payload. Garden City is attempting to use a Vernier dual-range force probe to measure neck lift accurately. This will involve staking a base to the ground under the tarp and connecting the probe to an eye in the base, with a cable/string connecting the other end of the sensor to the inflator valve. The output from the probe should give us an accurate measure of lift to within +/- 0.01 Newtons (+/- 1 gram). The classic water jug will still be our backup/test.

Teacher Adrian Deakin, VA4AMD, will be using the school’s Kenwood TM-D710A for tracking. The Shaftesbury HAB will include a small homebrew glider. The SHARP payload will include an Iridium satellite system provided by Solara Remote Data Delivery of Winnipeg. Students will use the Iridium network to communicate with SHARP-7 Ir in flight. The iridium HAB will send status reports to student Bryce Jenkins, VA4VBC and staff via email on command and it should reply to certain commands such as releasing coloured smoke as the payload lands. This appears to be a highly reliable system and will likely replace the SPOT as the backup tracker.

The HABs will be launched at one-minute intervals starting at 11 am. The planned sequence is as follows:

1) Garden City (GopherSpace HAB) – VE4GMK-2
2) West Kildonan (WKC – ICARUS) – VE4GMK-7
3) HC Avery (Eaglenaut) – VE4GMK-6
4) Maples Collegiate (Maraud Air 3) – VA4NGC-6
5) River East – (KASP) – VA4ADH
6) St. James – (Jimmies Space HAB) – VE4SHS-6
7) Fort Richmond – (FRC High Alt Balloon) – VE4JPI
8) Shaftesbury – (Shaftesbury High School HAB-7 Ir) – VA4AMD-8

The balloons will carry the payloads to altitudes of over 30 kilometres in a roughly easterly direction. The landings should be south of Winnipeg and west of the Red River beginning around 1:30 pm. The teams will support each other to the greatest extent possible with the overall goal of recovering all eight payloads as quickly as possible.

The Shaftesbury High Altitude Robotics Project (SHARP) at Shaftesbury High School in Winnipeg is a program that encourages kids to participate in the world of science and technology and the teachers use Amateur Radio as a key tool. They regularly launch balloons and repeaters to the edge of space, release robot aircraft from altitude and have built Canada’s only ISS telebridge.

Radio Amateurs of Canada, through its Youth Education Program and its Scholarship and Grant Program – completely funded by donations from RAC members and affiliated clubs – has supported SHARP and other students and activities involving Amateur Radio across the country (see

Further updates on the HAB launches will be posted on the SHARP website.

Robert Striemer, VE4SHS
Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada