Original Article: http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20020919/NEWS/309199995

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PORTSMOUTH — Crouching on the ground in front of a portable camping stove, teacher Mike Anderson placed a length of stove pipe over one of the burners and turned up the heat. The 20 or so students closed in anxiously as the first tissue paper balloon was placed over the open end of the pipe.

“One year,” Anderson explained to his class, “I had a balloon go over the trees at the far end of the playground.”

The steady breeze may have hampered the flights, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of Anderson’s fourth-grade students as they launched their homemade hot air balloons at Mary C. Dondero Elementary School on Wednesday.

The launch was the culmination of a week of work by the students to construct their 4-foot-long balloons. Placed in groups of two, the students used tissue paper and glue to assemble the balloons based on a model built by Anderson. A technique called French seel, in which the material is cut and folded over itself, was employed by the students to close the balloons and ensure they were strong enough to survive an airborne journey.

According to Anderson, the project was meant to be a group-building experience as well as an educational event.

“I put the groups together very carefully,” Anderson said. “I put kids together who weren’t necessarily best friends but that I thought would be successful in the project. So it was that, but at the same time there’s science stuff as well as a lot of complicated math used in measuring and constructing the balloons.”

At 10:45 a.m., Anderson and his students gathered in front of the school to launch the balloons. The success of the flights was limited due to the prevailing wind and warm temperatures. According to Anderson, the breeze whipped through the tissue paper balloons and cooled the air before they had a chance to rise very high. Additionally, the heat provided by the camping stove was not intense enough to warm the air inside the balloons above the seasonal air temperatures of the late morning.

Regardless of their success, the students were excited to see their balloons in the air.

“We have a couple rips in it, but it?ll still fly,” said 9-year-old Carolyn Hebert. Carolyn, along with Dakota Deters, also 9, created a red, white and blue balloon that had mixed results.

“The first time it went pretty good,” Dakota said, “but the second time stunk.”

Each group had three attempts to launch their balloons, with increasing winds limiting two of the groups to only two tries.

One of the highest flights of the day was completed by a balloon built by 9-year-old Brad Casperson and 10-year-old Kody Hummer. After being heated for about two minutes, the balloon was released and rose to approximately 40 feet before it began to slowly descend, coming to rest in the hands of the two builders.

“I thought we were going to lose it,” said Kody. “We had to chase it this way and that way before it finally came down.”

The boys said going last in the first round of attempts had a lot to do with the success of the flight.

“(Mr. Anderson) practiced on all the others,” said Brad. “Ours just ended up going the best.”

Only half of the balloons were launched on Wednesday. The remaining students will launch their balloons this morning at 10:30 to allow parents of some of the students to attend.

>Anderson said the class will hold on to the balloons and will hopefully launch them again later in the year. The plan is to begin the launch earlier in the morning when the temperature is lower and the wind is calmer.

The students in Anderson’s class agreed that the project was more for fun than anything else.

“We’re doing science,” said Carolyn. “But this is fun science. (Mr. Anderson) makes everything fun.”