The lengths I go to, to recover my payload – The Riverview Grade School road trip

On her school’s recent balloon flight science teacher Emily Dawson showed that you shouldn’t give up on a payload if your tracking fails. Sometimes it can literally fall by the road side.

Emily planned and coordinated Riverview Grade School’s recent balloon flight in Illinois, USA.


The launch took place Wednesday, May 22 at the Caterpillar Inc. Edwards Demonstration and Learning Center in front of an audience of 300 students from East Peoria, Metamora and Brimfield. Students gathered at 9:00 a.m. for set-up, assembly and related activities, and the launch took place around 10:50 a.m. The launch was also broadcast live through a webcast on the WTVP-Public Media website.

The school project was made possible through funding from PNC’s FirstGrant to Riverview Junior High teachers Emily Dawson, JoAnn Lowry-Emery and Luann Kuehn. The FirstGrant program is designed to help classroom teachers throughout central Illinois accomplish creative and innovative projects they would otherwise be unable to fund because of budget limitations, and it is supported by the Ruby K. Worner Trust and the PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (NYSE: PNC).

The helium required to fill the balloon was provided by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and arranged by WILL-TV. The launch site and equipment are courtesy of Caterpillar Inc. Production and broadcast made possible by WTVP-Public Media with support from WILL.



The payload of the flight included an action camera, flight computer to record climate data, and a SPOT Messenger for tracking the payload. Emily said, “The plan for recovery  and tracking was to use SPOT….but something happened between turning it on and lift off. The SPOT was tracking for almost thirty minutes. We believe we launched around



10:56…the last time the SPOT communicated. It either got bumped during the launch or it was accidently turned off prior to being taped into the payload box.

I ran the forecast software from University of Wyoming, which showed it would land in Lee County Illinois. So the chase vehicle started the two or three hour drive in that direction. Once in Lee County we started driving up and down county roads. We swept back and forth across the county and in to Bureau County until 4pm. Starting to give up we headed back home. The car I was in chose to take a route south and to the east of the projected landing site….then low and behold….just outside of Princeton Illinois south on Route 26….there it was in a field. Call it dumb luck or taking into account the change in wind direction and forecast of the landing….but WE found it!

We were able to recover everything that was in the payload box. We only lost the mascots that were attached on the outer bars. ”



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