A BALLOON carrying tiny computers began an adventurous ascent from a school field to the edge of space.

Pupils had their eyes on the sky at Rose Hill Primary School in Oxford for the lift-off of a huge 'weather balloon', designed to soar through the stratosphere and record data and images.

Oxford Mail:

The experiment aimed to inspire pupils about science and space and provide first-hand information and images to analyse in class.

Children and parents looked on as the balloon was pumped with helium and grew taller than some of the pupils, before taking flight.

Year 6 teacher Peter Mallam, a space enthusiast who is leading the project, said: "It will float right the way up to the edge of the atmosphere so we'll be able to see the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space.

"Eventually because of the low pressure the balloon will burst and fall back down with a parachute attached to the [data] box - hopefully it will land in a field somewhere and not on the M4 or in someone's back garden."

Oxford Mail:

The balloon carried tiny computers called Raspberry Pi, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, programmed to take pictures photos, videos and recordings of pressure and temperature.

If all went to plan, it should have climbed up to 30km above the Earth and glided back within three hours.

Mr Mallam bought the space balloon kit online three years ago and it has since been sat on his desk.

This year he said he finally contacted universities for help getting it off the ground.

Both Lena Shams of Oxford University's physics department and Graeme Marlton of Reading University's meteorology department got on board, and were instrumental in coding the computers.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Mallam said: "It's a massive undertaking.

"These guys [at the universities] are experts and send up balloons all the time - it's really fascinating stuff."

He hoped the practical task would help to engage pupils in technology and coding, noting a need to engage youngsters in those careers.

Mr Mallam added: "It's easy to Google pictures of space and say 'this is what it is', or, you could do something really interesting and unique and take pictures yourself and get first-hand data.

"That makes it much more interesting and the kids are fascinated by it.

"It's an opportunity to really inspire the children.

"Coding and programming is something we would really love to get into as a school."

He said the balloon should land near Swindon and send him a text with GPS coordinates, so he can pick it up and download the data.