KALIDA — On Nov. 16, a group of students from Purdue University's Association of Mechanical and Electrical Technologists launched a high-altitude balloon as part of a class project.
Little did they know the ride their experiment might take.
The balloon, used to record weather, was caught in a jet stream as part of the bad weather that came through the area Nov. 17. The instrument broke loose and landed in the Kalida-area field of farmer Joe Recker, 14304 H13 Road, Ottawa. Recker found the balloon in his Putnam County field on Sunday.
“Right away I knew there was something to it,” Recker said. “I noticed there was a camera, solar charging panels and a GPS system.”
Contact information that had been attached to the balloon was illegible due to the storm. The camera mounting the students installed on the balloon stayed connected, though.
Recker removed the video and took it home to try and view it, but it was incompatible with his home computer.
“I took it down to a local fertilizer plant, and we were able to view it,” Recker said.
Inadvertently, the students took video of their group as they mounted the camera. Recker noticed all the students wore Purdue jackets and other university gear, so he went online and retrieved a phone number for the Purdue Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department. Within an hour, the school tracked down the students who launched the balloon.
Purdue Communications Specialist James Schenke said the students were excited to recover the footage that came to rest near Kalida.
“At some point the telemetry failed, and the team tracking it towards Fort Wayne lost touch,” Schenke said. “The balloon, data and video were returned to campus Nov. 25.”
The group has since posted the videos of the balloon's trip on its YouTube channel. The foreboding weather can be viewed. On one video, the balloon can be seen as it makes its gradual descent and crashes into Recker's field.
“The students were happy just to get the footage back,” Schenke said.
Schenke said the students had launched the balloon to about 100,000 feet. A previous launch at 75,000 feet on Nov. 9 had traveled about 230 miles and landed in Dublin, Ohio. The balloon found by Recker traveled about 194 miles.
SEE THE VIDEOS
SECOND VIDEO: The second link shows the balloon crashing into Joe Recker's field beginning at the 16:05 mark.