Feb 06 2012

16 year old girl Hacks the Tube almost into space to get into MIT

Via Boing Boing, this is absolutely awesome. As part of their Early Action Admits, MIT challenges prospective students to hack the tube the enrollment letter came in into something cool. So one 16-year-old girl put a camera, a GPS, and two Ham radio transmitters, strapped it to an 800 gram helium balloon, and sent it nearly 91,000ft from Earth’s surface. That’s well into the stratosphere. 90% of the mass of the atmosphere is below the 52,000ft mark, and very nearly 100% below the 330,000ft mark, so that’s above a significant proportion of the atmosphere — as good as into space, as far as I’m concerned.

She’s of course been admitted. And she’s going to make one damn fine engineer, I expect.


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  1. 1
    'Tis Himself

    91,000 feet. High enough to see the curvature of the Earth. I am impressed.

  2. 2

    Link Spammer on 3! Hold the mayo.

  3. 3

    There are not enough expletives to describe how incredibly awesome that was!

  4. 4

    There are some seriously cool 16-year-olds out there lately. Us folks who’ve been around a few extra years need to start stepping up our game just to keep up!

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    Got it, Trebuchet. First time in a long time I’ve seen a link spammer on my most recent post — usually they go to very old ones. Or picture attachment pages, which is weird.

  6. 6

    Any idea what the release mechanism was?

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    Looks like it was just the balloon popping. Scroll to 6:07 and watch the debris wrap around the tube.

  8. 8
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh, release for the parachute? Absolutely no idea. I suspect it’s somewhere in the layout of the materials for launch while they’re hacking it together in the field at the beginning, but I can’t spot it.

  9. 9
    Gregory in Seattle

    It looks like the parachute was already deployed at launch; all that needed to happen was the balloon to pop. What I thought was cool was how fast the tube was dropping at first, with there being too little air for the parachute to catch anything.

  10. 10

    I agree the parachute was already deployed on launch. It did look like she came very close to not having a successful parachute — lots of lines flailing around and getting entangled.

    I just wish I’d been half that capable at sixteen!

  11. 11

    The title was a little misleading. The tube contained her acceptance letter. That is, she was already accepted to MIT. Maybe this got her something extra.

    Balloon launching has gotten quite popular over the past few years with many groups around the US (and probably Canada) doing it. They may be adults with a general interest in science or they may be directed at college or high school students.

    It makes for an interesting combination of engineering and science. Sensors can include temperature, humidity, pressure, etc. Then you need radio for telemetry to get the data and for tracking. The balloon goes through a rather harsh environment getting to the typical 90,000+ ft levels. Temperatures get down to -60C before that height.

    I always like to see examples where anyone can do hands on science or engineering. I work at a science lab (doing engineering) but do not think it should be restricted to those who are paid to do it. Of course, it is especially good if the young students are getting in to it.

  12. 12

    Absolutely awesome Erin. Go girl!

  1. 13
    What I’m Reading Monday, February 6, 2012 | Rationally Thinking Out Loud

    [...] 16 year old girl Hacks the Tube almost into space to get into MIT | Lousy Canuck [...]

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