Rowan-Cabarrus launched weather balloon to the edge of space as part of design challenge for third year in a row

SALISBURY, N.C. — For the third year in a row, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College was pleased to be one of the ten colleges selected to participate in the N.C. Space Grant Team Design Challenge and Competition.

The College was awarded the highest recorded altitude for launching the balloon 100,351 feet into the air.

“This was a great opportunity for work-based learning and provided a great experience of a real division of NASA for our students. The participants were able to learn the hands-on process of creating a real space balloon and simultaneously earned a scholarship to further their education,” said Zackary Hubbard, program chair for the College’s Computer Technology Integration program.RCCC NASA Space Team

The North Carolina Space Grant Consortium is led by North Carolina State University. As part of NASA’s proposal to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at community and technical colleges, the N.C. Space Grant was selected as a recipient of the 2014 Space Grant Competitive Opportunity for Partnerships with Community Colleges and Technical Schools.

Each team designed, engineered, tested and launched a high-altitude balloon to the edge of space. Team members were responsible for conducting a specific experiment while their balloon was in-flight that had measurable results. Each balloon was equipped with a camera and GPS, which aided in the recovery of the balloon post-experiment.

“We know how hard the students and advisors worked on this project! We were excited to see the growth in learning of the returning teams, as well as what new teams had to offer to the challenge and competition,” said Sandy Canfield, assistant director for partnerships and resource development NASA/North Carolina Space Grant.

“The balloon landed approximately 100 feet above average ground terrain in a white oak tree. Several attempts were made with fishing line to obtain the parachute and pull the balloon out of the tree but were unsuccessful. It was an incredible learning experience for the team,” said Aaron Cameron, Rowan-Cabarrus instructor.

The grant establishes the Team Design Challenge and Competition for faculty and students across the state to increase STEM education experiences featuring NASA content.

The College also launched a weather balloon in honor of the solar eclipse. This weather balloon actually exceeded the altitude of the previous launch, soaring 19.5 miles into the atmosphere.

“We had nearly 500 students, faculty and staff join us for our solar eclipse party,” said Natasha Lipscomb, executive director for Student Success South Campus.

The College also hosted two seminars in the week leading up to the solar eclipse, featuring Solar System Ambassador for NASA, Jack Howard.

Howard, a former full-time faculty member at Rowan-Cabarrus, still teaches physics and astronomy for the College part-time. The College was thrilled to give students an opportunity to hear firsthand from an expert on the ins and outs of the solar eclipse.

Howard spoke on public radio numerous times in advance of the eclipse.

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please visit or call 704-216-RCCC (7222). The College is accepting applications for the spring term with classes beginning January 8, 2018.