What began with the discovery of an interesting “white thing” in Madie Houdeshell’s yard led to a science assembly for fourth and fifth grade students at Udall Elementary School in Kansas. They learned all about weather balloons, why they are used, and how the sensor package ended up in Madie’s yard.
In April, Madie was outside with her dog when she came across the strange-looking contraption. She took it to school, where her teacher called the phone number on the device and reached the office of ARM’s Southern Great Plains site near Lamont, Oklahoma. Recognizing an opportunity to engage kids in science, David Breedlove agreed to make a visit to the school. David is the deputy site operations manager for the SGP site and has worked there since 1992.
He joined the curious kids in the school gymnasium, talking with them about his job, the purpose of ARM, and not least of all, the weather balloons. He explained that the balloons rise very high, collecting data along the way. This data is transmitted to the ground by a device—called a radiosonde—like the one Madie found. The balloons expand as they rise, eventually popping and falling to Earth, along with the radiosonde.
Madie graciously gave her radiosonde to the school for use in future classroom studies, but since the SGP site launches four weather balloons per day, perhaps she’ll find another one!