It does involve the barometer, at least insofar as safely storing it and protecting the environment from a nasty mercury spill.
Obviously your sarcasm detector was miscalibrated, as I was commenting on the disastrous toxic exposure risks involved in some of the suggestions (dropping it off the building, launching it over the building, etc.)
Consider it recalibrated (your sarcasm detector, not the barometer).
Has anyone mentioned the correct use? Measure air pressure at bas of building, then air pressure at the top. Find the difference and use that to compute the altitude... Of course, you might need to take a trip to the beach to find the presseure at sea level, too...
All Good suggestions. Another one I read was to set stand at the bottom of the building holding the barometer -- remotely detonate an explosion at the top of the buliding -- and measure the amount of time it takes the pressuse wave to register on the barometer :-)
Max, I would like to add another: have the students measure the reading on ground floor, and then climb two more floors, take readings in each and get the delta in pressure between floors. Count the number of storeys in the building and use USGS data charts to get the exact height. There will be some minor inaccuracy in this since the pressure drop vs. elevation curve is not linear, quadratic.
Max, you may want to lookup one of the Communications Society event I chaired:
Nov 2012: Technologies for Location Determination in Indoor and Urban Environments.
The speaker from NextNav (formerly @Trimble Navigation) does allude to atmospheric pressure measurement as one of the reliable ways (need 10Pa resolution). This can be accomplished by MEMS pressure sensors in a smart phone BUT it needs to be quite precise and must correlate to a reference system.