Bergen Community College STEM Students Complete Space Odyssey

Bergen Community College students completed a space odyssey this summer, launching a high altitude balloon to photograph images of the Earth at approximately 96,000 feet. The College’s STEM Student Union and faculty advisers spent more than a year developing the project and preparing for the launch.

STEM Fields Top Priority at Bergen Community College

“STEM education remains critically important for the United States and the country’s leading role in the global economy,” Bergen Vice President of Academic Affairs William Mullaney, Ph.D., said. “Preparing students for entry into these fields continues to stand at the top of the College’s strategic priorities. Projects like this summer’s high altitude balloon launch reflect the complex teaching and learning taking place at our institution in STEM fields.”

The project, the brainchild of physics professor Paul Griffo, of Rutherford, took more than two years to complete.

Last summer, a power failure shortly after liftoff knocked out the payload’s instruments, dooming a successful first attempt. Undaunted, the team returned to the laboratory intent on the realization of the goal.

With the use of drones, video and a smaller tethered balloon, the team completed three test flights this summer, setting the stage for an August 9 launch at Lackawanna State Park in Pennsylvania.

Bergen Community College Students "in" Space

The balloon, outfitted with two video cameras, a microprocessor programmed to collect data on air pressure, temperature and acceleration, several GPS tracking devices and even a homemade “selfie-stick” with a photograph of the team affixed to it, enabling the group to capture an image of themselves “in” space, topped out at approximately 96,000 feet – essentially the height of the maximum concentration of the ozone layer. Team members believe the balloon would have soared even higher if not for a miscalculation in the we