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Fair Food Takes Flight To Teach Fairgoers About Science

0815-fair-food-space-balloon
Katie Peikes
/
IPR
A massive balloon carrying a load of a corn dog, cheese curds and a chocolate chip cookie was launched into space at the Iowa State Fair on Sunday.

A corn dog, cheese curds and chocolate chip cookie took flight Sunday at the Iowa State Fair to teach kids and families about science.

The food floated high into the air, carried in a foam box attached to a massive balloon. The balloon expanded because of the drop in air pressure. Then it popped at 120,500 feet high. The cargo descended onto a soybean field south of De Soto.

Christine Nelson, a program coordinator with Iowa State University’s Make To Innovate lab, said ice crystals formed on the window of the box, so she suspects the food froze in the air.

“As it comes back down, it warms back up, and you can kind of see the food is a little drier than it would have normally been,” Nelson said.

Nelson says the event was a chance to teach students about science, technology, engineering and math beyond the classroom. Before the launch, people filled out a multiple choice form with guesses on what would happen to each of the foods in space, how high the balloon would go and how far away from the fair the balloon would land.

“We're really just trying to show kids that engineering can be fun,” Nelson said. “It doesn't have to be your textbooks. It doesn't have to be sitting behind a desk just scribbling away. It's hands on. It's interactive. And you can do a lot of really cool things that you might not have thought about with engineering.”

081521-fair-food-launch
Katie Peikes
The food floated high into the air, carried in a foam box attached to a massive balloon. The balloon popped at 120,500 feet high and the cargo descended onto a soybean field south of De Soto.

Nelson said the flight was “very smooth.” The balloon was visible from the ground the entire time, so they were able to track it and they got to see it burst. The team also put a camera in the box so they could watch what happened to the food the whole time.

The launch attracted a small crowd, which quickly dispersed once the balloon was let go into the air. Bailey Bergstrom and Lauren Feldmann, both 12 years old, came back to see what happened after the payload was retrieved. They both predicted the balloon would reach 60,000 feet high and that it would land 15 miles away. They thought the cheese curds would freeze, the corn dog would contract and the cookie would expand.

“I never knew that air balloons could go so high,” Feldmann said. “I thought they would pop really low in the air.”

“I didn’t know things could freeze in space, so I was pretty shocked about that,” Bergstrom added.

The launch was hosted by the Make To Innovate lab, ISU Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Space Grant Consortium and the Stratospheric Ballooning Association.