Members of the astronomy club at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland sent their giant latex weather balloon carrying a box of cameras and data-collecting equipment aloft last week, hoping to reach an altitude of 100,000 feet.
"We wanted to see the curvature of the earth," astronomy teacher Kyle Jeter told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "We wanted to see where the sky turns black, where you really feel like you're at the edge of space."
The balloon may have reached its stratospheric goal but mechanical problems caused it to become lost on re-entry, and not all its cameras functioned properly, he said.
"Technical difficulties," Jeter said. "We have a whole lot to look at, a whole lot to talk about."
With grants from NASA and the Toshiba America Foundation, the students had purchased three video cameras, a still camera, GPS devices, a cell phone and a $100 weather balloon.
The team launched the balloon from Lake Manatee State Park just east of Bradenton then waited to hear from it via its GPS signal, giving it up for lost when no signal was detected.
But the next day a resident of Frostproof, Fla., called Jeter and said he'd found the box of cameras and equipment by a dirt road, and called the telephone number on the outside.
Three days later it was back in the club's classroom to be examined and worked on.
Not everything worked as planned, but students said they felt the project was worth it.
Club members Dana and Katie Steel, 17-year-old twins who share a dream of careers in aerospace engineering, said they're glad of the experience.
"I hope this really leads me into that path," said Katie of her intended career choice.
"It was probably the most fun thing I have done in high school," Dana said.