For most, storm chasing is something only seen on the news or in movies, but for a group of Ball State students, storm chasing took them on a trip through the Great Plains this summer.
Students in the immersive learning project hit the road and went on a day trip. The project took the storm chasers through 10 states in the Great Plains, chasing in six states while tracking storms along the way.
They tracked down storms in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and New Mexico.
Students who went on the trip had to take classes during the school year to prepare them for how to safely track down storms.
“My favorite part of the trip was being able to apply what I learned in the course and throughout my college career so far, to the real-world setting,” said Lauren Elston, a junior meteorology major.
Every student was assigned a job while on the trip, doing each responsibility at least once.
Each day, the chase leads would use radars and weather models to help determine where the team would go for the day.
The navigators would work very closely with the chase leads, using maps to plan the best route to the storms. This job required students to constantly look at the maps and update the routes as needed.
The spotters would observe what they were seeing and what was happening outside the windows, and report what they saw.
The trip planner would decide where they ate and stayed during for the night. Kristin Hilgefort, a senior meteorology major, said the chasing was, “hands down their favorite part of the trip,” even though sometimes it meant waiting.
“There were numerous storms where we had to drive a few hundred miles or we would have to pull over at a random park and wait for a couple hours for the storms to fire up, but that's expected when chasing,” Hilgefort said.
While chasing was enjoyable for Hilgefort, the trip was an opportunity to meet new friends who shared the same major.
“The whole trip was a new experience for me so all of it was very memorable,” Elston said.
If interested in the storm chasing immersive learning project, more information can be found on Ball State’s website.