A group of schoolgirls are set to launch a balloon that could reach the edge of space with the help of experts from the University of Bath.
The 10 – 16-year-olds from Croydon High School for Girls will launch a meteorological balloon that should reach an altitude of 36,000 metres (36km) from the University campus on Friday 30 June.
Professor Cathryn Mitchell and Dr Robert Watson, experts in space and atmospheric physics based at the University, have helped the group prepare for the launch and to gain approval from the Civil Aviation Authority.
The balloon will contain equipment including cameras, data loggers, GPS trackers and experiments that will be used to help the pupils carry out tests to understand how different materials respond to the atmospheric conditions.
The balloon, similar to those used by organisations like the Met Office, measures a few metres across and will parachute back to earth following its ascent. A series of mementos, which the group will also be able to keep following the flight, will also make the journey.
Arabi Karteepan, Head of Physics at Croydon High School for Girls, started the Astrogazers club in 2021 to encourage girls to pursue their interest in physics, engineering, and space related careers. Figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that women make up just 24% of the UK’s workforce in STEM related jobs.
Mrs Karteepan says: “I am incredibly passionate about providing girls with the resources, guidance, and encouragement they need to pursue their passion and excel in the exciting and impactful domains of physics, engineering and beyond.
“Last year, I came up with the idea of launching a weather balloon and the response from the girls was amazing - the club has grown significantly since then. This balloon launch project provides a unique opportunity for girls to work together on a large-scale, real-world project outside of the classroom. Diversity of perspectives and skillsets is crucial to tackling complex problems, and I am proud to be a part of this project, which empowers girls to pursue their passions in physics and engineering.”
Prof Mitchell, Royal Society Industry Fellow working with Spirent Communications, has helped the group and says she has been very impressed by their approach, adding: “I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career as a physicist and engineer – I’m always very keen to encourage girls how interesting it can be to work in these areas, and that there shouldn’t be barriers to doing so."
Researchers and technicians in Bath’s Departments of Physics and Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Clare Cambridge, Siva Sivaraya and Gavin Dingley will also assist with the launch, which has been supported by the University of Bath Sports Training Village.