Boulder High Senior to Present Martian Balloon Research

Bryce Irving, a senior at Boulder High, developed an interest in space exploration while living in Florida when he was younger, riding his scooter to watch SpaceX launches and visiting the Kennedy Space Center.

In high school, he heard a presentation from an engineer at Ball Aerospace, contacted the engineer to learn more about his work, and discovered an internship at the Colorado Space Business Roundtable. He applied and was accepted to the week-long summer program, learning from employees of companies such as Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace and Sierra Space.

“I have always been inspired by space and seeing the work of different engineers was fun and inspired me even more to become an aerospace engineer,” he said.

He then applied to the Colorado Space Business Roundtable’s Student Ambassador Program because he “wanted to continue to learn more about Colorado’s space industry and make more connections.” He is one of this year’s seven Colorado Space Business Roundtable ambassadors.

As an ambassador, he studied the use of balloons to navigate Martian terrain. He plans to present his research on Martian balloons to space industry professionals at the Colorado Space Business Roundup’s annual panel on Wednesday at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

For his research, he investigated whether a balloon could maintain lift on Mars.

He created an equation to take into account the various factors that could affect the balloon, including temperature, atmospheric pressure and density, altitude, balloon material and the mass of the balloon’s payload. Then he created a Python program using this equation so that he could test the effects of changing variables on the radius, tensile strength, and altitude of the balloon.

He learned Python and other programming languages ​​on the Boulder High robotics team, and is now the team captain.

“Robotics has also given me a lot of practice in designing solutions to problems and collaborating with others to find solutions,” he said.

Through his research, he discovered that as the altitude of the balloon increases, the radius of the balloon increases exponentially. In addition, the heavier the material of the balloon, the more volume it needs to have sufficient buoyancy force for lifting.

He said he still wanted to study the effects of the sun heating the balloon during the day and cooling it at night, as well as the gases diffusing through the thin plastic of the balloon.

“I don’t consider myself to be doing research, even though I’m doing a presentation,” he said, adding that he was in contact with aerospace students at the University of Colorado at Boulder who wish to participate in his research.

He plans to major in aerospace and mechanical engineering in college and is interested in aerodynamics / astrodynamics, structures and systems engineering.

“I also want to build rockets, so I think aerospace engineering will give me some of the skills that I would need after college,” he said.

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