Crown College Reaches New Heights in Scientific Research

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The goal of Project Genesis was to facilitate collaborative research between faculty and students in order to investigate STEM education and its implications for science education majors.

Students learn real world applications of hands-on building skills, schedule and deadlines, actual atmospheric and space properties, explore an uncharted region of space with the potential of making new discoveries, teamwork, and communication skills.

On April 26, Dr. Thor Benson, the Crown College Honors Director and Associate Professor of Science Education, and sophomore Micah Ostergard, a double-major in Secondary Science Education and Biology, launched Project Genesis—a high altitude balloon (HAB) that ascended to 85,600 feet as part of the Global Space Balloon Challenge, an international science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiative.

The Crown College High Altitude Ballooning (CCHAB) team, comprised of several faculty and students, outfitted their platform with a helium balloon, a parachute, a radar reflector, a ham radio, an EyePod-3 (a GPS tracking data sensor), and three GoPro cameras. The system recorded airspeed, altitude, temperature, and air pressure, while simultaneously capturing video footage during an ascent that exceeded three times the altitude of commercial aircraft.

Dr. Benson and Ostergard collaborated with Taylor University professor of physics and engineering, Dr. Hank Voss and Near Space Launch ( to utilize a prediction software program and the EyePod sensors that enable researchers to map out and track the balloon’s trajectory. After ascending 16 miles in three hours, the balloon burst and the parachute-equipped instruments descended for about an hour before landing in a cornfield 60 miles south of campus.

Project Genesis was part of the larger Global Space Balloon Challenge competition ( — a worldwide event involving 291 teams from 47 countries—all of whom were required to launch HABs between April 10 and April 27. Funding for Project Genesis was provided by Crown College’s Honors Program, Math/Science Department, Teacher Education Department and the Student Senate.

Complex scientific experiments require creative collaboration and flexibility of dedicated researchers. This specific project was developed as part of an Honors course, incorporating faculty/student research to investigate high altitude ballooning and enhance STEM education.

Crown College’s first successful experience with HAB indicates how the STEM classroom can be restructured to promote hands-on, collaborative research. The CCHAB team is already planning its next launch for the fall of 2015.

For details including video footage of the recent launch, visit    

About Crown College

Ranked among the “Best Midwest Regional Colleges” by US News & World Report, Crown College approaches nearly a century of preparing students for both service and leadership. A fully-accredited Christian college just west of Minneapolis, Crown offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business, communications, counseling, criminal justice, education, leadership, ministry, nursing, and more. For more information, visit

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For additional information, Dr. Thor Benson at (952) 446-4100 or by email at bensont(at)crown(dot)edu.

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Shirley Granlund
Crown College
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