Pre-Engineering Academy Seniors Participate in Nationwide Balloon Eclipse Project

SHAWNEE, Okla. – A group of Pre-Engineering seniors in the Aerospace course at Gordon Cooper Technology Center worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Oklahoma State University to participate in the Nationwide Balloon Eclipse Project (NEBP).

The crew headed to Idabel, Okla., on April 8 where they launched 30 weather balloons during the solar eclipse and collected data to be used in researching gravity waves and their effect on weather patterns.

Gordon Cooper's team was one of only 52 teams in the country and one of less than a dozen high-school teams chosen to participate. Participants in the NEPB had the opportunity to experience and conduct real-world scientific research by collecting atmospheric data during solar eclipses. 

Last October, the GCTC students completed a successful 30-hour campaign during the annular eclipse in Odessa, Texas, where they launched weather balloons every hour to collect atmospheric data before, during and after the eclipse. Data was sent to NASA, OSU and other organizations for research into the effects of eclipses on the earth's atmosphere.

GCTC students worked in close proximity with a research team from OSU to send small data-collection devices, called radiosondes, into the atmosphere to altitudes of over 100,000 feet with weather balloons. The teams monitored the balloons and the data from the radiosondes on the same types of computers and equipment that professional weather and atmospheric scientists use in their daily jobs.

"NEBP has given me an amazing opportunity to learn about doing research, and it has inspired me to pursue field research in college," third-year pre-engineering student Conner Murray said.

Students used their time in their Engineering Design and Development course (EDD) to design and manufacture ways to simplify and expedite the processes for filing and tracking the balloons and gathering the data from the radiosondes. They presented their EDD projects to a panel of engineers and educators last December for feedback and review as part of their semester capstone. 

Students also generated and presented abstracts based on these projects to be published in an online American Astronomical Society (AAS) seminar in January 2024.

Gordon Cooper Technology Center is an accredited institution and is one of 29 Career and Technical education options within Oklahoma's globally recognized Career Tech System. GCTC serves an area in East-Central Oklahoma covering approximately three counties. To learn more about Gordon Cooper Technology Center, visit