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Michelle Jipson, camp coordinator for the Storm Chasers Summer Camp, shows students how to make a wind measuring device, or anemometer, out of plastic cups this week at BSU. MALACHI PETERSEN | Bemidji Pioneer

Weather watchers know which way the wind blows; Students design experiments and learn about science

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BEMIDJI -- Summer is usually used as a break from school, but for one group this week, it’s a time to learn a little bit more.

A group of sixth- through ninth-graders are spending time at BSU as part of the Storm Chasers Summer Camp offered by the Headwaters Science Center.

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Susan Joy, director of the science center, said the camp is funded by a grant through the Minnesota Space Space Grant Consortium, which is a part of a NASA funding program

Joy said the camp teaches students about many different scientific concepts such as barometric pressure, the water cycle and climate.

“The most important thing that I think participants are going to take away from this camp is the importance of making observations,” Joy said. “Too much in our daily lives we just look at the weather on the TV or our smartphones, or the paper.”

Michelle Jipson, the camp coordinator, said the week started out with students learning about basic scientific principles such as pressure and density before the class took on more hands-on activities.

“We started learning about the atmosphere and the different layers. Then we introduced the High Altitude Ballooning Activity,” Jipson said.

The ballooning activity, which takes place today, requires participants to design an experiment to load onto the balloon as a “payload” in order to predict and test a hypothesis regarding the weather. Jipson said the goal of the experiment is to teach students how to use the scientific method.

“They’re going to learn about the different sensors that are in the payload,” she said. “Our hope is to have the balloon land near Bemidji so we don’t have to trace it all over the state.”

Once the balloon is recovered, students will then analyze the data from the sensors and payload to determine if their hypothesis is correct. Jipson said the camp allows students to have fun and to participate in things they normally would not do in a normal classroom setting.

“They can actually get hands on with building weather equipment,” she said.

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