As far as Marian extracurricular activities go, the Project HALON (High Altitude Learning Over Nebraska) club has set the bar extremely high – 65,000-328,000 feet high.
Science teacher Mrs. Sharon Genoways moderates this freshman power team. When asked about her role in the club, however, she mentioned that the club members make her job easy. “They are totally self-sufficient. I just leave out the supplies, and they work. The girls even set up their own schedule,” Genoways said.
The team is working to launch a high altitude weather balloon near space. The NASA-sponsored simulation competition is set for April 11, provided that the weather is a “go” for takeoff.
Over the past couple of months, freshmen Caroline Drew, Annie Foley, Carolyn Griffn, Julia King, Abby McGill, Audrey Ana Otwell, and Lauren Philips have been working to develop sensor packages that will attach to the balloon.
“The sensor package is called Raspberry Pi. It is a software system that allows us to download information and collect data from the near space container,” Otwell said.
e girls described meetings as both “random” and “fun.” Caroline Drew, whom the girls call “Nancy,” gave her take. “At meetings, we analyze data, experiment with sound sensors, and just learn how to control everything. We plan to start designing the balloon and nd out where the computer goes,” Drew said.
The goal of Project HALON is to test if sound pollution in altitudes from 65,000- 328,000 feet above sea level affects birds and their nesting patterns. Prior to this year, there were very few girls involved with Project HALON.
Genoways discovered this club after taking a summer class at UNO from Mr. Derrick Nero, one of the heads of Project HALON.
“I was looking at pictures of the previous years’ launches, and I noticed something: there were virtually no girls. I gured our girls could do this, and Mr. Nero said he would love to have more females involved,” Genoways said.
Like Genoways, Philips feels that the whole experience is empowering. “Project HALON is a really exciting experience that not a lot of women get. There is no reason why women can’t get more involved. We are kind of on the forefront of it, and women are taking over the field,” Philips said.
Takeoff seems to be the most anticipated aspect of Project HALON. “I am excited to see them at the actual launch and see the experiment come full circle,” Genoways said.
Otwell feels the same way. “I am ready for the day when we actually get to send Raspberry Pi up into space and and see what our results can do,” Otwell said.
As for the years to come, the freshman team collectively voiced their interest in continuing Project HALON. “We would be in good shape. We will have done it before, so we will really know what we are doing,” Drew said.
When it comes to the future of Project HALON, these girls know how to “planet.”