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Whitworth University and Northwood Middle School Students Team Up for Launch

October 17, 2018
Students from the Whitworth Engineering & Physics Department and seventh-graders from Northwood Middle School will team up on Saturday, Oct. 20, weather permitting, to launch their experiments for the stratosphere into “near space” with a high-altitude weather balloon.

The balloon will be in flight for about two hours with an expected landing between Spokane and Pullman.

The physics students have been visiting teacher Renee Demand’s science class each week. They’ve helped the Northwood students design the experiments that will:

•Expose rubber bands to stratospheric conditions to determine if that exposure has altered their strength or elasticity.

•Expose earthworms and ants to low pressure and very little oxygen to see which is better able to survive the extreme conditions.

•Expose seeds to cosmic rays to detect any differences in germination and growth after the flight.

•Study the performance of alkaline vs. lithium batteries in the low-temperature environment of near space.

•Expose water plants to low temperatures and high radiation, comparing the cell structure before and after the flight.

Funding for Whitworth’s high-altitude research program comes from NASA’s Washington Space Grant Consortium, and support for this launch has been provided by Mead Education Foundation.

All those interested in the project will be able to watch the balloon-fill and liftoff live at

Whitworth Associate Professor John Larkin, chair of the department of engineering & physics, developed new tracking software and hardware over the summer that will make it possible for the first time to view live data during the flight by visiting:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


John Larkin, associate professor of engineering & physics, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4865 or

Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or