High Altitude Research Project (HARP)

  1.      Science Heads is now accepting applications for student experiments to fly aboard our next high altitude balloon (HAB). Teachers from intermediate and high schools in Southern California are invited to have their students participate in this exciting program. Interested parents are invited to share this information with their child’s educator.

To register send an email to richard@scienceheads.org.

HARP Session Dates:

Session # Status Register By Planned Launch Date *
         1 Open CLOSED December 17, 2022
         2  Scrubbed CLOSED April 22, 2023
         3  Planned  October 25, 2023  November 18, 2023

The HAB9 Launch will be Live Streamed (link with be provided here)

* Dependent on weather, FAA clearance, and other factors.


To register, please send an email to richard@scienceheads.org with your contact information, school/organization, grade level, approximate number of participants, and desired session # (see above).

Program History and Description

Science Heads started it’s HAB/STEM program in 2018 to offer students an opportunity to participate in scientific research. Under the guidance of their teachers and Science Heads volunteers – students propose and build experiments of their own design or execute pre-designed experiments. Working as a class, individuals, or in teams – students are invited to submit written proposals describing their original experiments. The proposals are then evaluated by a committee of local scientists and engineers. If selected, the students build their experiment and watch them launched in the payload of a High Altitude Balloon (HAB) launched and retrieved by Science Heads.  Launches are open to the public and are also live-streamed.

The Science Heads HAB’s often reach an altitude of over 100,000 feet where the atmospheric conditions are similar to that on the surface of Mars. The payloads return to Earth by parachute and are tracked and retrieved by Science Heads’ volunteers. The data collected by the experiments are provided to the students for analysis and reporting. 

This unique program offers a hands-on experience in which students can follow scientific methodology, apply critical thinking, and exercise their writing skills.

See pictures and videos from the Feb 20th, 2021 (HAB6) launch and recovery.

Three Participation Tracks

Teachers may register their students to participate in one or more of the three participation tracks:

  • Original Experiment Submission – students propose, build, and execute experiments of their own design. Experiments must meet the design criteria and parameters detailed in the HAB Experiment Submission Guidelines document (below). 
  • Participation in pre-designed experiments – Science Heads offers several pre-designed experiments for student participation. Students remotely participate in the planning and design meetings, attend subject matter expert presentations, and execute the experiment after recovery of the payload. Once the data is analyzed the students are invited to submit reports which may be published on the Science Heads website.
    • Pre-designed experiments:
      • Martian seed experiment (download protocol below)
      • Effects of UV and Cold on different polymers (protocol to be posted soon)
      • Chart and analyze physical forces experienced during flight experiment
  • Participation in Pre-Launch and Post Launch Operations – Students may participate in HAB launch planning meetings and attend subject matter expert presentations. Meetings include presentations given by subject matter experts on the topics of weather, climate, communications, avionics and telemetry.

Pre-Designed Experiments

Martial Seed Experiment

This hands-on experiment demonstrates the difference between dependent and independent variables, applicability of control groups, the importance of rigorous data capture and data analysis.

                              Martian-Seed-Experiment Protocol

Physical Forces Experiment

Students will learn how to use professional data analysis and visualization tools as they chart the G-forces experienced by the high altitude balloon during flight.

Video 1 (description of components used)

Video 2 (AdaFruit Feather Wing mounting and initialization)

Video 3 (Gyro and accelerometer initial tests)

Video 4 (Testing real time clock, SD card, and motion sensors)

Project Based Learning Elements

Students participating in the HAB / STEM program will:

  • Learn about weather and climate patterns from subject matter experts.
  • Engage in real-world problem solving.
  • Submit a report, poster, or give a presentation to their class or educator.
  • Develop deep content knowledge.
  • Employ critical thinking, collaborate with teammates, exercise their creativity, and communication skills.