Wyckoff Library Plans Balloon Launch that will Video Earth from 100,000 Feet

Residents can take place in two events this month that will help create the high-altitude launch.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.
The following was released to Patch by the Wyckoff Library.

The nationwide public library summer reading theme this year is science, and the Wyckoff Library announces a truly unique program on that subject. The founders of the Bergen Makerspace, a new Hackensack-based community learning center, will teach a two-part workshop here on the science of high-altitude balloons that will include a launch of the library’s own balloon and the creation of a video of the Earth at 100,000 feet.

In part one, on Thursday, July 17, from 6 to 9 pm, up to 25 adult and teen participants will compete in groups to build the payload for the balloon. They will make decisions about which atmospheric data should be measured, how the on-board still and video cameras should be oriented, and the most secure methods of attaching everything to survive the flight. 

The best engineered design will be declared the winner to be used by the Bergen Makerspace instructors on the library’s balloon.

On the next sunny, mild day, the instructors will drive to rural Pennsylvania to launch the balloon. Everything about the balloon’s three-hour flight, including launch and recovery, will be filmed. 

The on-board GPS will enable the team to follow and retrieve the payload, parachute and whatever remains of the balloon. Although the balloon leaves the ground at six feet in diameter, it expands as it rises until it bursts when it reaches approximately 19 feet wide. Then the parachute deploys to bring the payload safely back to Earth.

After the instructors edit the raw footage down to about 40 minutes, they will return to the library to present part two of the program on Thursday, July 24, from 7 to 9 pm. They will recount how the launch day went, explain the data the on-board instruments obtained, and show the film.

“I met the guys from the Bergen Makerspace when I attended the Newark Museum Maker Faire last April,” said Library Director Mary Witherell. 

“I was fascinated by the footage they were showing of other high-altitude balloon flights they have made. The views were so breathtaking and the launch and recovery process so intriguing that I wanted to share an event like this with my Wyckoff patrons. I hope the audience will be as awestruck as I was!”

This event is the second in an ongoing series of special programs at the library called the Rizzo Cultural Arts Series, named after sisters Helen and Evelyn Rizzo, who were lifelong Wyckoff residents, teachers and avid library users, and who bequeathed $1.5 million to the Wyckoff Library in 2009. 

These programs, funded by the interest this endowment is earning, will be more expansive than library programs typically can be, given the small budgets with which public libraries must manage nowadays.

“I think the sisters would love the programs we’re doing with their gift,” said Lori Peters, president of the library’s Board of Trustees. 

“It’s a way of sharing their passion for learning with all of Wyckoff.” 

The first event in the series was a Downton Abbey-themed murder mystery performed by Kathy Reed Productions last January. The third event is tentatively scheduled to be a panel of notable historical fiction authors this November.


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