Teddy’s world record jump is more than Raspberry Pi in the sky - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 27 August

Babbage the teddy bear has boldly gone where no stuffed toy has gone before - and challenged a world record in the process.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 27 August

Teddy’s world record jump is more than Raspberry Pi in the sky

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Darren Evans

Babbage the teddy bear has boldly gone where no stuffed toy has gone before – and challenged a world record in the process.

After being lifted to a height of 39km beneath a hydrogen-filled balloon, the brave bear leaped to Earth, recreating Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking freefall skydive last year. In fact, Babbage beat the Austrian daredevil's altitude by about 30m.

But while Baumgartner had a team of scientists, the latest computer technology and millions of dollars in funding to aid his mission to become the first person to break the sound barrier without the use of a vehicle, Babbage's skydive was a little more low-tech.

Created by high-altitude ballooning enthusiast Dave Akerman at his home in Berkshire, England, Babbage was equipped with nothing more than a low-cost Raspberry Pi microcomputer. Connected to this were a camera, a GPS unit and a radio to record his journey and transmit his position.

After launching from a field in Newbury, a firing mechanism was triggered when the balloon reached 39km in altitude, pushing Babbage off his cradle and sending him plummeting towards Earth. He parachuted to safety, landing a few miles away in Shaftesbury. The whole trip, from take-off to landing, lasted just over three and a half hours.

Babbage's descent was followed by Mr Akerman and a team of helpers in a specially equipped chase car; they recovered the fearless teddy an hour and a half after he landed.

Mr Akerman, who said the whole flight had gone "brilliantly", has previously launched a number of high-altitude balloons into the stratosphere, including a Raspberry Pi-controlled model of Doctor Who's time-travelling Tardis.

The Pi, which has been marketed to schools as a way to teach coding, has been backed by internet giant Google, which paid for 15,000 of the computers to be distributed in schools in the UK.


  • What is a hypothesis? Why is it important for scientists to have one before conducting an experiment?
  • What do you think Dave Akerman hoped to prove with this experiment?
  • If you were a news reporter covering this story, what would your headline be? Try to make use of a pun or play on words.

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