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June 19, 2013

WHS physics project lands in the Atlantic

Lobsterman finds Windham students' project

JagSat, Windham High School’s high altitude weather balloon, splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean a couple of hours after launch last week.

Maine lobsterman Ed Foye, checking traps with his helper the next day off the Isles of Shoals, noticed JagSat.

“To be honest with you, it looked like a person with a parachute who didn’t make it,” he said.

They retrieved the weather balloon and, as instructed by a message attached to it, placed a call to Windham High physics teacher Patrick Kaplo.

“It explained what it was and said on it that it was nothing harmful,” Foye said.

“This was a classic phone call,” Kaplo said, wishing now he had recorded the conversation.

He could see on his phone that the call originated in Maine.

“He’s got this great Maine accent,” Kaplo said. “He said, ‘I’m a lobsterman from Kittery.’’’

The call from Foye came as a relief to Kaplo and the 15 students who spent the past few months planning to put JagSat, or Jaguar Satellite, into the sky.

The probe, weighing about 6 pounds, included a capsule with on-board GPS and cameras.

JagSat had climbed an estimated 62,000 feet on June 9, before coming down to Earth.

It took pictures from a point-and-click camera the mission team purchased for about $60 from Wal-Mart.

The students had launched JagSat in Keene after flight modeling suggested an ocean landing if it went up in Windham.

They wanted JagSat to come down on land instead to get that camera back and hoped that would happen somewhere east of Manchester.

“It was really cool,” Kaplo said, “not just that it came back, but that it had these great images from the edge of space.”

This hands-on experience with science and engineering is what the students said they coveted when they signed on for the project.

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