Dockery bobblehead won’t be rocketing into orbit yet

The Union University Society of Physics Students had planned to send a bobblehead of David Dockery, university president, into low orbit May 11, but the launch has been postponed.

The launch was tentatively set for May 11, the Saturday before finals. After passing a bill in student Senate to request $300 from the university to back the project, SPS received full funding.

Joshua Edgren, freshman physics major, volunteered to spearhead the project.

Edgren said the bobblehead will make its journey using a weather balloon filled with helium. As the balloon rises, it will eventually come to a point where the air pressure outside has decreased, making the balloon expand until it bursts.

A capsule will be attached to the weather balloon, protected against a potential water landing, insulated from the cold and also protected from the impact. The bobblehead will be attached to the outside of the capsule.

The weather balloon that SPS has purchased will burst at about 90,000 feet, the point at which a parachute will deploy, bringing the capsule safely back to earth.

A GPS device will be in the capsule to track it.

The camera will look out on the bobblehead,” Edgren said. “So the goal here, frankly, is a picture of the bobblehead with the curvature of the earth is what we’re going for. And if we get that the project will be a success.”

The idea arose in an SPS meeting where members were discussing projects.

Fonsie Guilaran, associate professor of physics, suggested sending a Dockery bobblehead into space. SPS members loved the idea.

“No matter what happens, obviously Dr. Dockery is awesome,” Guilaran said. “And the fact that the students want to celebrate him in this way and put forward all this effort to that end says a lot about his legacy. And if it’s successful then it’s just icing on the cake, in many ways.”

Initially, SPS members planned to request the funds from the SGA allocation budget only to find out the budget had been emptied.

The project was scrapped until Grace Morris, junior electrical engineering major, said they could ask the university itself for money. The bill was presented at Senate to lively discussion and resounding applause.

“People are thrilled,” Edgren said. “It’s kind of bizarre to me. I mean, it’s a cool project, but everyone who has heard of it has said, ‘That is the greatest idea ever.’”

The final time and date will be determined by weather and when construction is finished.

Ward Howard, sophomore math and physics double major, and Grant Riley, junior philosophy and Christian thought and tradition double major, are playing large roles in the construction.

About Katherine Burgess 70 Articles
Katherine Burgess, a class of 2015 journalism alumna, is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Cardinal & Cream. Her journalism has taken her from a United Nations Tribunal to the largest maximum security prison in the United States to Capitol Hill. She is now the Education Reporter for the Jackson Sun. Follow her on Twitter @kathsburgess