Something strange was in the sky over Cherokee Village in the month of May and a slight miscalculation may be to blame for record travel for one school district’s weather balloon.
On May 21, the City of Cherokee Village received a call regarding a weather balloon which had been launched from the Berryville School District, more than 100 miles away.
According to Drew Killingsworth, Education Accelerated by Service and Technology (EAST) teacher for the seventh grade at Berryville, the launch of a student made and student lead weather balloon project has become a tradition, however; the balloon has never traveled this far.
“This is a project we’ve been doing in our seventh grade science class for about 10 years now. Before we were doing the baking soda rocket bottles, but one of the students said, it would be cool if we could launch into space. I said, what if we could? So, we started researching but it was going to take way too much baking soda and vinegar but one of the kids found you could send a weather balloon to the edge of space, and it turned out to be super feasible,” Killingsworth said.
After researching weather balloons, speaking to some members of the community and learning about various regulations, all the materials were secured and the first balloon was launched.
Killingsworth explained that every year since, the balloon has become a right of passage for seventh grade students prior to the end of the school year.
“This year we launched it, and it went way higher than we ever thought it would go, through a little trial and error. We thought it would land in Mountain Home but it went twice that far and landed in Cherokee Village,” Killingsworth said.
Thanks to members of the Cherokee Village Street Department and Entergy, the weather balloon, fondly named “Joe” to honor the memory of a former community member Joe Anderson who donated helium for the project since it’s inception prior to his passing, were greeted by quite a sight when they arrived to retrieve the minion themed weather balloon.
“Every year they do a different design and this year, we used sonic cups for the interior to keep it warm. While we were looking at the cups, we were trying to decide what theme and at first we thought Sonic and Mr. Robtonic but he’s red and we had yellow duct tape, because we need to be able to see it if it lands in the woods or something,” seventh grade student Mikayla Killingsworth said. “So dad suggested science, and we thought about Minions because they have a science lab in their basement.”
Because the project is through the EAST class, students researched all aspects of what would be needed including how much helium, weight, weather conditions and more.
Ellie Asbury, another seventh grade student who worked on the project said they also had to factor in attaching two cameras and a tracking device in the balloon’s basket.
“We put a go-pro camera for the eye of the Minion and a 360 camera In the side,” Asbury said. “We think we might have forgotten to turn the go-pro on, but the 360 camera was definitely on.”
Killingsworth said as students research the project at length prior to launching the balloon.
“What we’re learning out of this scientifically, starting with Newton’s Laws for reactions, going on to collecting weather data, atmospheric conditions, temperature, air pressure, different altitudes and being able to detect the ozone layer up that high,” Killingsworth said. “That is an interesting data point because the temperature gets colder but gets warmer as it gets higher into space.”
Mikayla said some there were some hiccups once the balloon had been launched, which has been attributed to a calculation error using, oddly enough, too little helium.
“I think it was a success, except, it went really far and so we couldn’t get it the day we launched it. We launched it on a Monday, it was going fine, and the GPS was recording every 10 minutes and then it stopped recording for like three hours. Later it popped up way far away from where we thought it would be, it kept going,” Mikayla said.
When asked why the students thought the balloon had traveled so far, in unison the three blamed the miscalculation.
“It’s because my dad didn’t check his math like he always tells us to do and we didn’t put enough helium in it. He always says to check everything three times and he only did his once,” Mikayla said.
Killingsworth explained initially, launch had been set for the previous Friday, but rain was coming in and so the students opted to wait until the following Monday. However; while in the process of launching, the threat of rain again created a hurried circumstance.
“When it finally stopped moving, we saw it was In Cherokee Village, so the next day, I got a hold of Joey Sheets over at the Cherokee Village Road Department and he was very friendly. I explained to him the odd predicament. I gave him the coordinates and he and his friend Brandon went and put eyes on it but it was way too high for them to get so they reached out to Entergy and Justin Parrish who was able to bring a bucket truck went and rescued our Minion,” Killingsworth said. “It had landed just west of Lake Thunderbird in some trees on Nocatee.”
When asked their favorite part, both Mikayla and Ellie agreed the launch was one of the most memorable parts.
The weather balloon has been shipped back to its home in Berryville, and video footage will be uploaded in the near future for public viewing. Be watching for the link which will be posted to Hallmark Times as soon as it becomes available.

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Lauren is a an award-winning journalist who decided after 10 years of newspaper experience to venture out. Hallmark Times was born.