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Community Colleges Across NC Participate in the Annual High-Altitude Ballooning Challenge

A view from above taken by Edgecombe Community College’s high-altitude balloon.

In early March, teams from across the state assembled at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, NC to compete in the 2024 North Carolina Space Grant Community College High-Altitude Ballooning Challenge (HABC). Awards were given in various categories, such as Highest Altitude and Best Photo, with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s team taking home the Best Overall Team award.

Students are responsible for the planning, strategy, and execution of the project. Aaron Cameron, program coordinator and team leader at Rowan-Cabarrus, explains the importance of teamwork and student leadership throughout the process. 

“Embrace and understand how each team member contributes to the project. Enjoy the process of experimenting and learning. Listen to your mentors,” said Cameron. “It is an amazing feeling to see something you built from your own mind fly to 100,000 feet.”

Since October 2023, eight teams had been preparing for this event, collaborating to design, build, test, and fly a scientific payload onboard a high-altitude balloon.

Participants in the program gain hands-on scientific experience, acquiring technical skills as well as teamwork, communication, and leadership abilities.

“The HABC program provides students an opportunity to engage in a real-world engineering design challenge and develop important skills to better prepare them for careers in STEM fields,” said Jobi Cook, associate director of NC Space Grant.

Award Lineup

NC Space Grant is pleased to announce the following awards.

Highest Altitude: Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (107,277 feet)

Closest to Predicted Landing Site: Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (5.2 miles)

Best Outreach: Edgecombe Community College

Best Overall Payload: Durham Technical Community College

Best Photo/Video: Edgecombe Community College

A view from above taken by Edgecombe Community College’s high-altitude balloon.

Best Overall Team: Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

This year’s best overall team winners, the high-altitude ballooning team from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, after retrieval of their payload.

NC Space Grant intends to host the challenge again in 2025 and hopes to see returning and new teams.

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