Selborne boys aim high in curved earth quest

HIGH HOPES: Selborne Primary Grade 7 boys Luke Hosking, Callen Jordan, Josh Jensen and Chris Cocks, who have formed the Club for Space, Science and Robotics (CSSR) at the school, will launch a ‘rocket’ 32km into space Picture: BARBARA HOLLANDS
HIGH HOPES: Selborne Primary Grade 7 boys Luke Hosking, Callen Jordan, Josh Jensen and Chris Cocks, who have formed the Club for Space, Science and Robotics (CSSR) at the school, will launch a ‘rocket’ 32km into space Picture: BARBARA HOLLANDS
A group of four Grade 7 schoolboys are out to prove once and for all that the earth is round by launching a GoPro “rocket” 32km into space from the Bhisho Airport.

Former Selborne Primary acting principal Abrie Pepler said the boys, led by Elon Musk devotee Luke Hosking, along with Josh Jensen, Callen Jordan and Chris Cocks, approached him about their plan to launch a weather balloon into the stratosphere.

“We were at a camp in Chintsa and they said they wanted to blast a GoPro into space to film the curve of the earth,” said the recently retired Pepler.

“I asked them how they would fund it and they said they would use their pocket money. What I loved about it is that they came to me totally off their own bat because this was not initiated by the school, nor is it part of the curriculum.”

Pepler asked the boys to put their ideas on paper and the innovative foursome produced a clear and concise PowerPoint presentation of their plan, which they called Project Skywalker 32.

Impressed, the teacher helped the budding young astronauts secure sponsorship, but the boys are the brains behind the project and have assigned themselves clear tasks to reach their goal.

As the team leader, Luke, who teaches an extramural class in computer coding to Grade 4s, is the master techie.

“I’ve always been into science, robots and space and so I created the CSSR (Club for Space, Science and Robots). I wanted to launch the balloon GoPro because I’ve heard that people are once again saying that the earth is flat, so I wanted to capture its curvature.”

Callen, who is responsible for the project’s calculations, said he had been busy working out how high the capsule will go and at what speed it will travel.

“I think we may be the youngest people to launch something into space and yet we live in a small city!”

Josh said the 7mx7m helium balloon, which will be filled with 50 litres of helium, would pop once it reached the maximum altitude of about 32km. “Then a parachute will automatically deploy,” he said.

The chute will carry the capsule containing a GoPro, GPS tracker, a battery and a hand warmer to keep electrical components warm in -60°C temperatures.

Once the parachute has deployed and the GoPro is filming the wonders of our planet, the boys, armed with laptops tracking it via GPS, will spring into action to retrieve it.

“I will be in a light aircraft and the others will be in cars with their parents,” said Luke.

The launch date is not set yet, but blast-off will take place by the middle of next month, depending on the weather.

Said Chris: “We already have permission from the aviation authorities for lift-off.” — barbarah@dispatch.co.za

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