Merced County Times Newspaper
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Le Grand, Stanford Connection Grows Stronger

Stanford University students and Le Grand Student Space Initiative students have teamed up and have launched and recovered several weather balloons. The Stanford students taught their Le Grand counterparts how to solder wires and do other hands-on activities. Stanford students were in Le Grand this week to launch another weather balloon.
Stanford University students and Le Grand Student Space Initiative students have teamed up and have launched and recovered several weather balloons. The Stanford students taught their Le Grand counterparts how to solder wires and do other hands-on activities. Stanford students were in Le Grand this week to launch another weather balloon.

Le Grand Union Elementary School District students are reaching for the stars.

In collaboration with Stanford University students who love exploring space, eight sixth- through eighth-grade Le Grand Student Space Initiative students recently launched their own weather balloon at a Hollister park.

It ascended to 75,000 feet and was airborne for two or three hours, landing in the mountains west of Carmel Valley. It traveled 22 miles. Scott Borba, Le Grand superintendent, said a principal friend of his in the Carmel area recovered the balloon and he will pick it up shortly.

The Le Grand students’ balloon was a 12×12 Styrofoam box covered with lots of duct tape. It had an external mercury thermometer, a GoPro camera, GPS tracker, parachute and the payload — a homemade cupcake.

Le Grand’s weather balloon launch was the outgrowth of chance circumstances unfolding last September. A Stanford University balloon was recovered in the Le Grand/Planada area and a connection was made between local students and nine university students.

Via teleconferencing, Borba’s students have met with their Stanford counterparts three times and planned their next missions. They learned how to gather, assemble and then launch the required materials.

The Stanford students were back this week to launch another weather balloon from Le Grand Elementary School.

Borba said the Stanford students were friendly and helpful.

“I have been in education for 18 years and this was one of the best days in my career,” Borba recalls about meeting the Stanford students in Brigantino Park. “They learn from each other; I see my students have opportunities with the world’s brightest kids. It felt like they were equals. It was an amazing learning experience.”

Cadence Duelo, 14, a Le Grand eighth-grader, enjoyed the experience.

“It was really fun, definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They’re fun to work with,” she said.

Cadence wants to become a pediatric nurse. She said the Stanford students were relaxed and relatable. The Stanford students taught their Le Grand counterparts how to solder wires and do other hands-on activities associated with space exploration.

Borba says this is just the first year of many for the students to collaborate on the weather balloon project. He said it’s a good image for his students, showing them they too can go to Stanford and study engineering one day.

Borba hopes the camera in the Le Grand weather balloon worked and it captured incredible high-altitude pictures of the coastline, as well as recording temperatures from the flight.

Space exploration and hobnobbing with Stanford students isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

“It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity for the students and I hope we will continue the relationship for years to come. I hope to take students to Stanford to see them in action. I’m excited that this is just the beginning,” Borba said.

When Le Grand students launched their weather balloon, it was out of sight in a couple of minutes. Like their Stanford comrades, local students formed the Le Grand Student Space Initiative. Soaring to new heights is in their future.

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