For a year and a half, 20 Virginia Tech students prepared scientific balloons for Eclipse Day, April 8. Along with 800 other undergraduates in 75 colleges nationwide participating in the NASA-sponsored National Eclipse Ballooning Project, these STEM students will launch balloons with scientific instruments attached to gather more information about Earth’s atmosphere. The project, which Montana State University started in 2017, includes 53 teams and has two tracks - atmospheric science and engineering. Virginia Smith, who took part in the 2017 challenge during her senior year at the University of Kentucky and now is a Ph.D. candidate in aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech, has mentored this year’s participants.

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