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Thursday, Sep 20, 2018
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Cub Scouts engineer weather balloon plan

Liftoff for Cub Scout Pack 323 is scheduled for around 8 a.m. Saturday, near the Connerton Clubhouse.

The 15 or so Junior Webelos in Greg Spiegel’s den won’t be strapped into rockets and shot into space, but the boys will attempt to launch a weather balloon fitted with a GoPro camera, GPS technology, a ham radio and other gadgetry 100,000 feet into the sky.

Spiegel said he hopes the balloon will burst somewhere over Polk City and parachute to the ground, where the Cub Scouts and their parents hope to find it.

“We want to retrieve it and hopefully get video footage back,” said Spiegel, whose son, Sawyer, is in the pack. “Next weekend is Daytona Scout Days, with 3,000 Scouts camping in the center of Daytona speedway, and we want to present to other Scouts how the experiment went.

“We want to show any footage (from the flight) and collect any data into something that they can present to all the other Scouts.”

The Junior Webelos began the project as a way to earn engineering badges, but other Scouts soon caught interest.

“The actual build of the balloon was mostly Junior Webelos, but the launch and adventure of finding it will be open to the whole pack,” Spiegel said.

Video from the camera will be broadcast onto the website aprs.fi — run by Google — so that interested parties may track the balloon’s progress.

An electrical engineer, Spiegel said he consulted with his friend, Joe Register, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of South Florida, on the balloon.

“It looks like a two- to two-and-a-half-hour flight time,” Spiegel said. “From the Connerton Clubhouse area, it should travel toward Cape Canaveral. Our goal is to not go in the ocean.”

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The balloon will expand as it rises, then burst, he said.

Gregg Svendgard, who runs the Connerton Clubhouse, said the pack approached him a few months ago about launching the drone from Connerton. Svendgard’s sons, Connor and Jack, are members of the pack, and he didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“It sounds like a pretty high-tech little gadget,” Svendgard said.

After the balloon is launched, Spiegel and other parents will attempt — via GPS data — to drive the Cub Scouts to wherever the parachute lands.

“It will probably beat us there,” Spiegel said. “We’re just going to jump on Interstate 4 and start heading that way.”

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