Civil Air Patrol

AZ Wing Squadrons Excel in High-Altitude Balloon Challenge

Two of the eight Arizona Wing squadrons that participated in the National CAP Cadet High-Altitude Balloon Challenge received awards during a virtual ceremony on October 6. Show Low Composite Squadron was one of four finalists for the grand prize and received an honorable mention award of $250 for creativity in covering all aspects of the documentary. Davis-Monthan Composite Squadron received a $400 Project of Distinction Award.

This program was designed to promote aerospace and STEM education through the Civil Air Patrol and StratoStar Company, a STEM education consulting organization.

Each participating cadet unit was required to create one or two small experiments, a short two-to-three-minute video of the experiment and design process, a digital mission patch, and a final four-to-five-minute video of the experiment process and results. The cadet experiments were carried to the edge of space at 100,000 feet by a high-altitude balloon and returned to earth. Afterward, cadets received their submitted experiments to conduct final process steps.

Arizona Wing Director of Aerospace Education Maj. Ron Marks said, “Arizona did extremely well overall and special congratulations go to the Show Low Squadron for being named a top four finalist for the $5,000 Kittinger Cup. This is an amazing achievement, and we would like to congratulate Lt. Col. Carol Schaubschlager and Squadron 210 members on this accomplishment.”

Lt. Col. Revone Bauwens is the Show Low squadron’s Aerospace Education Officer and worked with the team on its award-winning project. “I was so impressed with the direction that Lt. Col. Bauwens provided the cadets in their scientific process,” Schaubschlager said. “It was her idea to take them to Northland Pioneer College to visit with Professor Lopez on one of their experiments, the fungus that attacks the Ponderosa pine, which is native to our area.”

Professor Patricia Lopez, who teaches biology at Northland Pioneer College, assisted Cadet Airman Gavin Zimmerman and Cadet Staff Sgt. T.J. Hess with their High-Altitude Balloon Challenge project.

Cadet Airman 1st Class Kaden Lucas was one of the six cadets on the team. “It was a lot of fun,” Lucas said. “I felt like I was able to learn more about the other cadets that participated. I also enjoyed the teamwork aspect, as well as the experiments we were able to do.”

The value of teamwork also appealed to Cadet Airman Gavin Zimmerman. “The project was really fun and we learned a lot,” he said. “We especially learned about teamwork. We also learned that you can’t just not do much work and hope to get first place. You have to work for it.”

“It was one of the best programs I have participated in and I’m very excited with the outcome,” Cadet Staff Sgt. T.J. Hess said. “I will definitely be participating next year if possible.”

“I was so flabbergasted to see our name as a finalist in the four out of 139 teams,” Schaubschlager said. “That in itself is a great honor. It only tells you that with hard work and dedication the only way you can go is up!”

The other members of the Show Low squadron team were Cadet Airman 1st Class Kyler Owens, Cadet Airman Trevor Owens, and Cadet Airman Levi Owens. Bauwens and 2nd Lt. Jeff Hess were the senior members who supported the team.

Capt. Michael Griffith is the squadron commander and assistant AEO at Davis-Monthan squadron. “We had such a great time exploring the potential questions and experiments that we could have pursued during the flight,” Griffith said. “While we did this activity as a whole squadron (41 cadets), we broke into small groups often to work on different aspects of the project development. It was a great project for us and I hope our squadron will be able to participate again.

“I’m honored, on behalf of my squadron and cadets, to have been selected for the Project of Distinction award. The cadets worked together from picking a branch of science to explore through analysis of the data we got back from the flight. I loved that multiple cadets submitted candidates for the final science slide we had to submit.  It showed both their understanding of the material and their eye for design.”

Several of the Davis-Monthan Composite Squadron cadets submitted designs for the final science slide that was submitted with their High-Altitude Balloon Challenge project.

Marks also thanked Arizona Wing AE Project Leader Capt. Brett Russo of Sky Harbor Composite Squadron who led this effort wingwide in addition to coaching a team from his squadron.  

The Kittinger trophy and a $5,000 cash prize for the most outstanding project were awarded to a team representing two Massachusetts Wing squadrons that combined forces to work on their project. Col. Joe Kittinger, USAF (retired) is a former fighter pilot and aeromedical high-altitude researcher and was an early pioneer in the exploration of human high-altitude experience.

Read more about the National High-Altitude Balloon Challenge here.

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