In this 1-week introductory course, students will learn and work with basic laws of physics, such as lift and drag, to accomplish their mission of filling, launching and tracking a weather balloon as it travels through the atmosphere and into near space—up to 100,000 feet! The course immerses student teams in all aspects of a balloon-launch mission, including telemetry, radio communications, flight prediction and data analysis. Activities include:

  • Launching sounding balloons to validate mission goals
  • A campus-wide “fox hunt” for a hidden transmitter
  • Testing and understanding GPS tracking equipment
  • Using scientific instruments such as flow meters
  • Predicting flight trajectory using national weather service data
  • Launching and tracking a weather balloon into near space
  • Analyzing and graphically presenting data


Building on the skills presented in Ballooning 101, in this 2-week course, student teams will compete for balloon world records in altitude and time aloft. To achieve mission goals, teams will determine how much lift to add, predict the path the balloon will take, when it will burst and where the payload will land. Teams will also prepare and test a radio tracking payload and track and record telemetry during flight. Participants will also have the opportunity to earn their FCC Amateur radio license and the opportunity to add to Flying Apple’s knowledge repository by explaining how something works and helping balloon groups across the world to gain knowledge and achieve their goals. Prerequisite: Ballooning 101.

  • Compete for world records in amateur ballooning
  • Programming, testing and preparing GPS tracking equipment
  • Predicting flight paths using NOAA winds aloft data
  • Amateur radio license preparation and exam
  • Communications experience
  • Calculations to determine mission parameters that will optimize distance or height


Students who have completed both Ballooning 101 and 201 may submit a proposal for this individualized research course. Whether you are interested in social media marketing and web design or building and coding an Arduino flight computer, we tailor a program for you. Typical projects include designing and building a small payload for launch and retrieval, but students in this course have the opportunity to dive deep into any aspect of Flying Apple—from theoretical physics to social media marketing. Past projects have included: characterizing atmospheric radiation using a Geiger counter, photographic payloads, a cut-down device, flight trajectory computer, trans-continental flights, app design, theoretical balloon physics paper and maintenance of the Flying Apple web properties and social media channels. We’d love to hear your idea—the sky is the limit! Prerequisite: Ballooning 101, 201.