MILTON, WV (WOWK) – A science project one year in the making finally took flight Thursday.

St. Albans High School science teacher David Harvey launched a weather balloon tens of thousands of feet into the air from a field in Milton. Harvey said his idea to launch a weather balloon into the heights of the atmosphere started because of years of experience launching rockets.

Harvey said he always wanted to physically see what’s beyond the ground perspective.

“I’m pretty much a science-based person. I am always asking questions,” Harvey said.

David Harvey is a science teacher at St. Albans High School.

Harvey filled the balloon with helium so that it would hit a certain pressure and then launch more than 70,000 feet in the air.

“This kind of really brings it home to that, and it’s just something that they will always remember,” Harvey said. “It’s like, wow, we flew something to the edge of space, and we are significant in what we do here because we are rather insignificant out there. What we make here has an impact.”    

Once the balloon reaches the limits of the atmosphere, the pressure will cause the balloon to pop, and then a parachute takes over to help the balloon land safely.  

The weather balloon was launched around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, and while in the air, it collects data about atmospheric gas content, temperature and more.

A GoPro is connected to the balloon. That way students can see what the atmosphere looks like from above.

The project to launch the weather balloon was funded by a grant from Toshiba.

Harvey said, because he’s curious about exploring the atmosphere, he hopes to motivate his students to also see the value in exploration.  

“I thought this was really good to go through them, and they could see it because we did it,” Harvey said. “It is very much something they can connect to, and it’s all about making those connections is where I think the learning really happens.”

Harvey said the balloon launch serves as what he calls a “benchmark flight.”

“Because I’m curious about it, we explore together, and this is all about exploration,” Harvey said.

He said it is important to get students involved in hands-on activities and research beyond the classroom.

It’s not just David Harvey at St. Albans High School who sees the value in students learning from this experiment.

“It’s real science. It’s live science. It’s a firsthand experiment unfolding before their eyes so that they can gain the knowledge that comes with tracking a system and finding out what information can be gained,” St. Albans High School Principal Jaclyn Swayne said.

Harvey said he plans to launch another balloon in the fall that way he and his students can compare the data and have a better understanding of the atmosphere above West Virginia.