So often, adults forget the astounding and inspiring things that little children can do.
Children such as Tristan Jolley.
He dared to dream and reach for the stars, and in so doing, he has shown that anything is possible, no matter what setbacks that come in life.
Here is his story.
BOY’S SCIENCE PROJECT HITS RARE HEIGHTS
June 10, 2012
Houston Chronicle Sunday
SUFFOLK, Va. — When fifth- grader Tristan Jolley wasn’t picked for this year’s NASA student symposium in Houston, he was disappointed— motivated, too.
Photos courtesy of Tristan Jolley via Virginian- Pilot Tristan Jolley, a fifth- grader in Suffolk, Va., captured 200 photos, including one of him with his little sister, during a weather- balloon experiment in 2011. His lunchbox “capsule” was also rigged with a video camera.If anything, he said, it made him want to work harder.
Tasked with an independent- study class project, Tristan was interested in an experiment that even his father, one of his biggest supporters, doubted would work. The goal: Send a weather balloon to near- space altitudes and visually capture the journey.
Turns out, the project wasn’t impossible after all.
The 11- year- old cut holes in the sides of a nylon lunchbox that had a hard- plastic insert. He rigged it with two waterproof digital cameras— one to shoot video, and one programmed to take still images every 30 seconds— plus a GPS tracking device.
Tristan connected a short wooden rod to one side of the lunchbox, to which he attached a picture of himself and his 8- year- old sister so it would appear in photos. He wrapped the box in brightly colored duct tape and posted a note with three phone numbers on top.
Tristan’s dad, Brian Jolley, helped tie the knots to attach the weather balloon and parachute, which they had found online. He also rented the helium tank needed to inflate the balloon.
“When they get an idea like this, you’ve just got to support them and hope it works out,” Jolley said.
The family drove to Lawrenceville, west of Emporia, in May for the big launch. Taking the wind into consideration, that’s where Tristan figured he should go to ensure a safe landing in Suffolk.
The craft, assembled for about $ 500, floated away. Tristan didn’t know whether he’d see it again, but he hoped so.
Brian Jolley tracked the balloon’s journey online using GPS coordinates. It reached at least 60,000 feet, they believe, before popping. With the parachute slowing its descent, it landed in the Chesapeake Bay near the bridge- tunnel connecting Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore. The trip lasted only about two hours, but the lunchbox traveled an estimated 110 miles.
A water landing was the worst- case scenario, Tristan said. The next day, though, a fisherman happened upon the balloon, saw the phone information that was attached and gave Brian Jolley a call so he could retrieve it.
Setting an example
At the Suffolk school division’s Gifted Fair, parents and peers marveled at Tristan’s video and some of the 200 images his creation had captured. He titled the presentation “Marlins in Space”— a reference to the mascot of his school, Mack Benn Jr. Elementary.
“So what’s the purpose?” sixth- grader Brandon Eley asked at the fair.
“To show that anything we put our minds to, we can do it,” Tristan replied.
He won’t get a grade for his work. Gifted- resource teacher Liz Petry said she wants students to take risks and to learn from the process.
“They can try things they’d never expect to work,” Petry said.
During the fair, Tristan was eager to explain to anyone who stopped by his trifold display how he adapted the lunchbox. When one girl questioned how much his parents helped him, he had an instant reply: “Allmy dad did is finance the project.”