Youth Win National Title in Civil Air Patrol High Altitude Balloon Challenge
FOR THE WAUSAU TIMES
A team of five cadets, ages 12-14 from the Stevens Point Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, were awarded with the 2023 Kittinger Cup and $5000 grant in the Civil Air Patrol High Altitude Balloon Challenge (HABC) in a live broadcast awards ceremony on Monday, October 23. The win puts the team at number one over 115 cadet teams of about 950 total cadets throughout the nation. Cadets worked for four months to create almost 1,000 science experiments which were launched on two weather balloons before reaching burst altitudes – both just over 100,000 feet.
The national challenge honors and is sponsored in part by the family of Legacy Ambassador and Benefactor, Retired Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger, who set parachute jump records while performing tests for the USAF’s Project Excelsior, aimed at helping design ejection systems for military pilots flying high-altitude missions. The Steven Point cadet team’s project studied cold welding in low earth orbit, and required a 2 minute introduction pre-launch video, a mission patch, a complete science slide detailing their experiment, and a 5 minute post-launch review video.
The cadet team was made up of Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Lily Schaefer of Wausau, an 8th grader at Odyssey Virtual Academy; Cadet Senior Master Sergeant Barrett DuBos of Stevens Point, an 8th grader at Adventure Home Academy; Cadet Senior Airman Alex Albright of Vesper, an 8th grader at Immanuel Lutheran School; Cadet Senior Airman Greyson Krepsky of Stevens Point, a homeschooled 8th grader; and Cadet Senior Airman Micah Ritter of Wisconsin Rapids, a 7th grader at Immanuel Lutheran School.
In their video, Cadet Dubos says, “When we started the High Altitude Balloon Challenge, we were very interested in welding and we wondered how welding would work in low earth orbit and beyond.”
They referenced the 1991 antenna rib welding incident of NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, an episode none of the cadets were around to witness but which still holds mystery today.
“We still don’t know all we want to know about cold welding and atomic bonding,” says Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Schaefer, “and our experiment shows that. We know a lot more about how to take things to the next step, including that cold welding is best first studied here on earth, in a lab that can replicate the vacuum of space.”
The cadets’ video mentioned that their experiment would fit right in on the ISS. Captain Bob Roberts, the HABC Project Director, agreed with them. “I hope that somebody from NASA sees this slide,” said Captain Roberts during the live awards ceremony, “Some of your cadets may get a phone call … I know for a fact that NASA is looking at this as well.”
With the $5000 prize, the team will establish a scholarship fund to allow more Stevens Point Composite Squadron cadets to take advantage of opportunities like Flight and Space academies through the Civil Air Patrol.
About Civil Air Patrol Founded in 1941 and established as the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force seven years later, Civil Air Patrol is chartered by Congress as a nonprofit organization for the purposes of youth development, aerospace education, and to promote general aviation. In an auxiliary role as a Total Force partner of the Air Force, CAP operates the world’s largest fleet of single-engine aircraft for search and rescue, disaster relief, training, and education. Civil Air Patrol is dedicated to serving America’s communities, saving lives, and shaping futures.