Physics students launch bobblehead to honor Dockery

Bobblehead launch
Students, faculty, staff, and guests gather to watch the Society of Physics Students launch a bobblehead of University President David Dockery into space Sept. 27 on the Great Lawn. | Photo by Anne Richoux
Bobblehead in space
Illustration by Chelsea Wood

The Society of Physics Students honored Union President David Dockery by launching a “DSD bobblehead” into space Sept. 27 at Miller Tower.

The Department of Athletics created the bobblehead in 2011, distributing 300 of them at a February basketball game.

Since their creation, the bobbleheads traveled with students to various places, and students took pictures of the adventures and posted them on a Tumblr page.

Last year, society members came up with the idea of sending the bobblehead into space.

“Originally, this was the brainchild of Dr. Guilaran,” said Joshua Edgren, sophomore physics major. “And I volunteered to head it up.”

The idea came to Fonsie Guilaran, associate professor of physics, when he recalled of a viral video that showed a miniature Lego Man was sent to space for a high-altitude balloon project aimed to capture photos and video of earth’s curvature.

“The idea came to me during one of our SPS meetings,” said Guilaran. “Dr. Dockery had just publicly announced his transition into becoming chancellor, and we just put the two together and decided to launch the bobblehead into space in a capsule.”

Society members initially planned to launch the bobblehead in May 2012, but when they requested funds from SGA’s allocation budget, they found that the fund had been emptied.

Later, Student Senate passed a bill to seek $300 in funding from the university to complete the project.

The group received the funding at the end of last semester, and members have been working on the project intermittently since then, with accelerated progress in the last three weeks before the launch.

Edgren planned to send the bobblehead by using a weather balloon filled with helium.

As the balloon rises, it will eventually come to a point where the air pressure on the outside of the balloon has decreased, which will result in the balloon expanding until it bursts.

“The capsule will travel 90,000 feet vertically and around 20 to 30 miles laterally,” said Edgren. “We have a GPS attached to it so we can find it.”

The group expected the bobblehead to “ascend via weather balloon to 90,000 [feet], descend via parachute to ground level and be recovered via GPS.”

However, on the day of the launch, as around 200 students gathered for the event, the group of students experienced some difficulties with their weather balloon.

“I had purchased two weather balloons for the project, and on the day of, we realized that one of the balloons had a hole and was unable to be used,” said Guilaran. “The students put a lot of work into the capsule, but because it weighed too much, it was unable to be used.”

The bobblehead was launched on Friday afternoon without the GPS or capsule, as previously planned, as the combination of the three items in the weather balloon  weighed more than anticipated.

Regardless, Guilaran and the students who worked on the project were pleased with the end result.

“Dr. Dockery was present for the launch and he was honored, and our goal was achieved,” Edgren said. “[We] hope we will be able to do a second launch in the future.”

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About Alana Hu 21 Articles
Alana Hu, news editor for the Cardinal & Cream, is a senior public relations major and is vice president of professional development for Union's Public Relations Student Society of America, and a freelance writer for Baptist Corporate Communications in Memphis, Tenn. She is a former intern of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. and Make-A-Wish of the MidSouth.