Tim the Beaver, MIT’s mascot and engineer of the animal world, ascended 20 miles straight up on the front seat of a high-altitude balloon last month. Tim carried a banner for the Boston Shriners Hospital for Children, helping raise over $5,000 to enhance the quality of life the hospital’s youngest subjects.
The MIT Space Balloon Team launched this balloon in concert with 297 other balloon teams in 47 different countries across the world as part of the second annual Global Space Balloon Challenge (GSBC). A founding GSBC institution, MIT helped grow the program six-fold this year. Notable new territories with participating teams included parts of Southeast Asia and rural Africa.
In addition to the little rubber Tim, MIT’s space balloon carried mission patches and personal letters for the Shriners patients, and also performed a novel sound experiment using a calibrated microphone and speakers. Upon the balloon’s recovery, the MIT team delivered the cargo and donations to the hospital in an event attended by patients and their families. “After we showed them the video of their banner overlooking the curvature of the Earth, all of the kids declared that they wanted to be astronauts or engineers,” said Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics graduate student Duncan Miller, an MIT GSBC member.
Thomas D'Esmond, Boston Shriners Hospital administrator, said, “We are so proud of the team and their commitment to … raising funds and increasing awareness of Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston." Shriners provides highly-specialized surgical care for children with severe burn injuries, complex skin conditions, and cleft lip/palate. All services are provided regardless of patients' ability to pay.
The Global Space Balloon Challenge is an annual event, typically taking place in April, and everyone is invited join. Results from this year’s competition and information about next year’s challenge will be announced on the website balloonchallenge.org, which also includes forums and tutorials to help get new teams started.