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High Schoolers Push Down Price of Near-Space Photography 88

Floodge writes "High School students at Explore Knowledge Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada have launched a near space photography balloon which took over 2000 pictures of Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, and much more! The 'space craft' was built from used and recycled components for under 60 dollars and was inspired by MIT students Project Icarus in 2009." Near-space photography via balloon isn't quite new any more, but price is a great frontier to explore. And I'm glad that there's a school called "Explore Knowledge Academy."
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High Schoolers Push Down Price of Near-Space Photography

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  • Now they just need to get Google to buy the pics.
  • by Ced_Ex ( 789138 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @04:42PM (#35821980)

    I saw the site for a second... and boom... server goes down.

    Tis' better to have looked and lost than to have never looked before.

    • It got slashdotted :(
    • I think Slashdot is responsible for bringing down more websites than Anonymous!
      • I think Slashdot is responsible for bringing down more websites than Anonymous!

        Next time there's a raid, it should be posted here. Preferably under the guise of something that would interest /.'ers

    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      I saw the site for a second... and boom... server goes down.

      Tis' better to have looked and lost than to have never looked before.

      Well it's much cheaper getting your camera into near space than buying enough bandwidth and processing power to prevent being slashdotted. Some things you can't do on a budget.

  • by Lawrence_Bird ( 67278 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @04:52PM (#35822096) Homepage
    any minute now. Clearly these kids are terrorists. Why eles would they be taking photos of the Hoover Dam? Lake Meade? Las Vegas! IIRC not even tourists are allowed to photo the dam itself anymore.
  • Not too hard to build, with a weather balloon and a modified Webcam.

    I've started on a kit to build an astronomy camera, by converting a color web cam to (more sensitive) B&W. Everything else is just software.

    There's a video of someone sending up a video camera on a balloon, which shows just how much atmosphere there is to look through, with haze of water vapor, etc., on youtube (can't do the look up here) which was pretty neat. What's missing is some kind of stability (add gyros?)

  • Link to Vimeo (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mentally_Overclocked ( 311288 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @04:54PM (#35822118) [] This has the video of the images taken.

  • The link for the equipment is failing for me. Did see the front page. No way that this can really be done for under $60 though. Sure, if you already have all of the parts and don't factor them into the cost you can do it for under $60, but that is true for many many things, but a pretty pointless statement.
  • by RemyBR ( 1158435 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @05:03PM (#35822214) Homepage

    Their website ( says:
    We innovated upon and continued the trend of low-cost flight platforms, building our craft entirely from off the shelf components for close to 75 dollars."

    Also, they say they had sponsorship for the GPS unit and Helium.

    • by Achra ( 846023 )
      Bingo, that's the first thing I noticed too. It's hardly doing it at lower cost if somebody gave you an expensive GPS unit and you don't figure it's value in to the cost of the project.. The Project Icarus guys used things they had lying around, but factored their value into the cost of the project. This is a more honest approach. My assumption is that their SpotGPS unit is MORE expensive (not less) than the cellphone used in project icarus. The only real innovation here is that they used a soft-cooler inst
      • Agreed.

        I just launched a balloon (again) last Sunday.

        The balloon and helium alone cost us $800 (we made it to 103k ft using a bigger more expensive balloon).

        Unless people are giving you free money, thats the bare minimum - not even accounting for the cost of tracking and filming equipment. Or the gas needed to drive 4 hours following the balloon . . .

        • The components for a full balloon launch (including helium) reached around 60 usd, yet this is taking into consideration the usage of cell phone GPS and not the satellite alternative loaned to the project.
  • Nothing new (Score:2, Troll)

    by kuzb ( 724081 )

    This is not new or exciting. This gets done a few times every year by random people, I'd hardly call it news.

    • by Leebert ( 1694 ) *

      This is not new or exciting.

      Yeah, I would have expected the editor to have said something like: "Near-space photography via balloon isn't quite new any more"

      The point was how cheap this one was done: That the price point is now down to 60 bucks.

    • I think I first saw on of these on Nova a few backs- MIT students using a weather balloon and smart phone.
    • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @07:11PM (#35823350)

      We live in a country where most people can't explain how the tides or fracking magnets work. (Shout out to Bill O'Reilly and other juggalos) We live in a country where the science content of "Mythbusters" is considered too difficult to understand for the average population. We live in a country where a sweet young woman who recently graduated from high school asked my wife if she drove back to the States from her visit home to Japan.

      Anything -- ANYTHING -- that fans the dying embers of inquiry in this country should be encouraged. "Hey, how about that?! It's a real pain in the ass to fold even a piece of toilet paper as long as a few football fields more than 12 times. Hey, the higher you go, the colder it gets, and the more you can see. I wonder if..."

      Things have gotten so bad in this country, I'm ready to fall back to toddler teaching techniques. "What, you mixed vinegar and baking soda and it got all fizzy? Hooray! Good for you! Do it again! Hey, have you seen what Diet Coke and Mentos do?"

      • by t2t10 ( 1909766 )

        We live in a country where most people can't explain how the tides or fracking magnets work

        US science literacy is still quite high in international comparisons: []

        The US also is among the top for money spent per secondary student: []

        Should the US improve? Of course. But ideologically motivated diatribes like yours aren't helping. Take your own

        • (Looking at your cites)

          Yo Adrian! Wolverines! We're number 14! We're number 14 out of a field of 27! We almost made the top half! We totally kicked Mexico's butt! Wooooo Hoooooo!

          You, t2t10, are what I'm talking about. You're offering a cite that lists us as 14 out of 27 and referencing that as "quite high." You must be proud of that triple digit SAT score. Let me guess, home-schooled, right, or did every kid in your class get a ribbon after running the race?

          You've got this conceit going that you're offering

          • by t2t10 ( 1909766 )

            You're offering a cite that lists us as 14 out of 27 and referencing that as "quite high."

            Those 27 nations are OECD nations and represent the most developed nations in the world; hence 14 is likely our worldwide position, beating countries like Germany, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.

            Let me guess, home-schooled, right, or did every kid in your class get a ribbon after running the race?

            Worked my way through college, got a fellowship for grad school, working as a scientist now, and not rich (but frugal). Oh, an

            • ...then we know it's all good.

              "The most developed nations?" You mean what we used to call the First World? OK, so in competition with all the countries that aren't walking in shambling horror like Rwanda, we're getting beat by more than half of them. Your sample includes Mexico, a nation that can't protect it's own mayors, police chiefs and judges. And you're proud of this?! With the exception of Germany, by your own numbers we're getting beaten by anyone who's anyone, including members recovering from hist

              • by t2t10 ( 1909766 )

                You're OK with this?

                I just responded to your verbal diarrhea about the supposed failure of the US educational system. Yeah, we should improve, but we're nowhere near as bad as you claim we are. And since we out-spend those other nations, the problem obviously isn't on the spending side.

                "And when you were young, per-capita education and health care spending in the US was a fraction of what it is today (in constant dollars), so lack of spending is not what killed those dreams." Simply not true.

                Yes it is tru

      • Man you gotta hang out with smarter people - just kidding. We really aren't quite that bad, but I agree that we need to do something to get more interest in science.

        Mythbusters? Sure, it's like Jackass for nerds, but that's the idea. The stereotype of the Asperger's afflicted science nerd has to go away, and the sooner the better.

        But we have to get the young'uns thinking of science via the interesting aspects. Mythbusters helps - I don't think it's a coincidence that the stars personalities run a range

  • to get my soft cooler back?
  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @05:35PM (#35822484)

    I'm Surprised, not for the kids but at the Government. Where was the DHS in all of this and why didn't they shoot it down as a suspected Al Qaeda drone?

    I have visions of F16s being scrambled from Nellis to go attack the invading force.

    It's great to see that kids still have teachers and sponsors who will help them do something great. Yes, we may consider it small potatoes in some circles but still, this is High School! They're putting fricken sharks with laser beams at stratospheric heights!

    • Wasn't there a case in WW2 of the Japanese launching a balloon, attaching a bomb on the bottom of it and letting it drift across the pacific? Caused the only civilian deaths in the US itself when someone said "hey, what's that thing in the tree" and poked it with a stick.

      So, maybe unsolicited balloons are a concern.

      • Balloons are a very unreliable vehicle for delivering bombs on account of the wind being rather unpredictable and blowing in different directions on different altitudes.

        Unsolicited cars and trucks on the other hand are a concern!

      • From Wikipedia []:

        "From late 1944 until early 1945, the Japanese launched over 9,300 of these fire balloons, of which 300 were found or observed in the U.S. Despite the high hopes of their designers, the balloons were ineffective as weapons, and caused only six deaths (from one single incident)—a kill rate of 0.067%—and a small amount of damage."

        So, yes, it has happened. Once. In all of recorded history.

        By this reasoning, my wife's family should have shunned me as a possible bomber pilot there to d

        • This has drifted completely off topic, but please bear with me. Before writing off the balloon attacks, read up on Japan's Unit 731's activities (warning: it's quite unpleasant reading: []). If the war had gone on just a little longer, we could have been faced with a massive biological warfare attack... it wouldn't have taken many of *those* balloons getting through to make life quite unpleasant.

          Sharks in the water indeed...

    • Hmm, Virtucon has a low user id, probably old enough to remember that it takes 99 ballons to scramble the jets. [] :-)

    • Back at base, bugs in the software
      Flash the message, "Some thing's out there"
      Floating in the summer sky
      Ninety-nine red balloons go by

      Ninety-nine red balloons
      Floating in the summer sky
      Panic bells, it's a red alert
      There's something here from somewhere else

      The war machine springs to life
      Opens up one eager eye
      Focusing in on the sky as
      Ninety-nine red balloons go by
  • My work proxy says the page has a virus on the page. Any one not able to access the webpage?

  • hey ! and to continue the cycle of good intentions, donate the imagery to to improve maps ;)

  • Kids in high school think their parents are stupid.

  • stability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by georgesdev ( 1987622 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @06:21PM (#35822886)
    isn't there a team that will work on image stabilization?
    I mean near space cheap photography has been done many times.
    What's really missing is something to get a stable shooting of the images
    right now, it makes me wanna puke!!! Then the animation would really be cool!
  • well it looks like the site
    has been /.'ed

    the servers are overloaded

    the /. effect in action

  • This (and other similar) balloons got to around 29000m (translated from the archaic units in TFA) ; definitions of the "border of space" vary, but cluster around the 100000 to 122000m range (where atmospheric drag and lift at orbital velocity become comparable). While this is undeniably a high-altitude balloon, it's hardly "near space".

    OK, I'm a pedant. I'll get the phone book so you can call someone who cares.

  • Is it someone who 'high schools'?

    Maybe subby meant high school students.

  • It might have photographed Barbra Streisand's house.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.