Durham Technical Community College students will compete with nine other North Carolina community colleges in a grant-funded, high-altitude balloon scholarship competition in the spring semester.
Six Durham Tech students will design, engineer, fly, and hopefully recover a helium balloon bound for the edge of space. Students will battle against other schools’ teams for awards based on best payload, highest flight, and best photograph.
Each participating team will be allocated up to nearly $23,000 to support a faculty member, travel costs, engineering costs, and scholarship funds of between $500 to $1,000 per team member. The competition is funded by a NASA grant provided to the North Carolina Community College System and North Carolina Space Grant, an academic consortium of in-state institutions dedicated to promoting technology and space-related science.
“We are excited to give our students an opportunity to participate in a statewide competition that will foster growth in research, project management, and team-building skills,” said Charlene West, Interim Chief Instructional Officer at Durham Tech. “Our students will also have a chance to work with mentors and present their findings during an Undergraduate Research Symposium in the spring.”
Durham Tech will join three returning North Carolina schools from last year’s pilot competition. Central Piedmont, Catawba Valley, and Rowan-Cabarrus community colleges competed in the contest. During the competition, some balloons reached more than 90,000 feet, conducted experiments, and took photographs. Joining the group will be Pitt, Craven, Edgecombe, Guilford, Southwestern, and Randolph community colleges.
Faculty advisor for the team will be Julie Hoover, an instructor in Geology and Physical Science at Durham Tech. The student lead for the project will be Jimmy Acevedo, an Associate in Science student, who participated in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center earlier this year. Durham Tech students will begin preparing for the balloon competition as early as October with an expected launch date in April 2016.