Student Portal


ECC Team Wins Three Awards in High Altitude Balloon Challenge

Edgecombe Community College students and faculty won three of the five top prizes in the recent statewide NASA/NC Space Grant high altitude balloon challenge. Team members included (front, from left) Ruben Gaytan-Ledezma, Carlton Morris, Isaac Carlos, Trey Cherry, Kaitlyn Tripp, Tim Boyd, Doug Parrish, (back) Emily Boyd, Cristal Carlos, Rebecca Stamilio Ehret, Alma Bracete, and Emilee Moore. Team member Jilianne Leary was unavailable for the photo.

A team of 13 Edgecombe Community College students and instructors who competed in an unmanned high altitude balloon challenge in April have received three out of the five top awards.

ECC’s team won:

  • Best Flight Readiness Briefing
  • Best Payload
  • Best Overall Team

ECC was among six community colleges in North Carolina that competed in the challenge, which was funded through a NASA and NC Space Grant. Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory hosted the statewide competition in April.

“No other team has ever won this many awards,” says Rebecca Stamilio Ehret, physics/astronomy instructor and project coordinator. “We are thrilled. This is a capstone in a very successful project, and we are looking forward to next year.”

Students from engineering, computer science, and other STEM disciplines worked on the balloon’s payload for months. Included were blood and plant algae samples mixed with antifreeze protein polymers developed by the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. The goal was to determine whether the samples could survive the extreme cold temperatures of near space.

According to Stamilio Ehret, both the algae and blood mixed with the antifreeze polymers survived the flight, so the experiment was a success.

Also included in the payload was equipment that collected data such as compass readings, temperature, altitude, and barometric pressure; a UV/Infrared/Visible light sensor; a GoPro camera; and an exterior still camera.

The balloon climbed to 87,468 feet and was recovered in Concord, NC.

Students on the team were Kaitlyn Tripp, a student at SouthWest High School who is enrolled in electronics classes at ECC; Edgecombe Early College High School students Jilianne Leary, Isaac Carlos, and Emilee Moore, who are all taking STEM classes at the college; and ECC students Ruben Gaytan-Ledezma, Carlton Morris, and Cristal Carlos.

Faculty advisors were Rebecca Stamilio Ehret, Tim Boyd, Trey Cherry, Doug Parrish, Alma Bracete, and Emily Boyd, an adjunct instructor.