Local middle school students launch weather balloon 20 miles abo - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Local middle school students launch weather balloon 20 miles above Earth

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KENNEWICK, WA - Students at Highland Middle School are celebrating much more than their last day of school. They launched a homemade weather balloon that almost made it to outer space.

Just less than a week ago, their weather balloon was floating more than 100,000 feet above the Earth's surface.

"It was way up there," said science teacher Scott McLeod. "You could actually see the blackness of space, the curvature of the Earth, the clouds below."

This genius idea for a homemade weather balloon has been brewing for the past ten years. McLeod is a science teacher at Highlands Middle School who shared this vision with his students.

"A lot of these things, being a science teacher, you're really into science yourself," McLeod explained. "There's a lot of personal ambitions."

McLeod found the perfect opportunity to fit his ambition into his curriculum. This project coincided with their latest lesson; his class just wrapped up their chapters talking about layers of the atmosphere and weather systems.

"We really think that this is how science should be done," said McLeod. "That students should be engaged physically with the science that we're doing."

The balloon took 10 months to make, but throughout the entire process of finding the parts, building it, and eventually launching it, McLeod says recovering the balloon once it popped was the best part.

"We found [it] laying in a wheat field, just two miles south of Odessa."

And they knew almost exactly where it was going to land. Their weather balloon is equipped with two tracking systems, three GoPros, an antenna, the balloon itself, and a parachute for a safe landing. After studying all of the atmospheric data, they could pinpoint where it would be.

"It was odd that our predictions were almost exact for where this thing ended up. Well it's not off for great scientists."

Great scientists, who do their best to keep science real for their students.