Project Exploration Launches Rockets!

“When you launch in a rocket, you’re not really flying that rocket. “The deeper the journey into inner space, the further the possibilities in outer space.” – this is very important – so you don’t have to carry the return fuel when you go there.” “Rocket science is tough, and rockets have a way of failing.”

Explore Engineering tests students ability to learn about Rocketry!

Project Exploration has offered our Explore Engineering porgram to high school students for the past three years in partnership with After School Matters. This program has exposed students to the engineering and mechanics behind 1:10 RC race cars, drones, and this summer, students explored rocketry!

Over the six week program, students from various high schools met at Richards Career Academy High School to begin exploring rocketry. Students built and programmed satellites to measure weather, barometric pressure, and a variety of other climate indicators that were loaded in the four-foot rockets. The program would culminate with a rocket launch!

Launch Day

Sherman Park, in the Back of the Yards community, would serve as the Explore Engineering: Rocketry program’s Cape Canaveral! The park is 57.70 acres and features a small island in the central area is surrounded by a mini lagoon which was an ideal location for the launch.

The rocketeers walked from the school, rockets in tow, with excited speculation about whose rocket would go the highest and be the loudest. Judy Lubin, the Project Exploration, Board Chair, and certified for rocket launching, joined the students. Since her participation with PE seven years ago, Judy has worked with students over the years to expose them to rocketry, but this was the first time students would build their rockets to launch.

Judy partnered with Ken Biba, founder of S4 (Small Satellites for Secondary Students). S4 is a program to deliver a science platform as payload on amateur rockets or high altitude balloons. He was responsible for working with the students to build their satellites.

The students determined the launch order, and preparations for the launch began. After a few minutes of set up, the crowd fell silent as together we eagerly started the count- down. ‘Ten, nine, eight…” However, the “three, two, one, blastoff!” was anticlimactic when nothing happened.

Students were puzzled as they worked alongside Judy and Ken to diagnose the problem. After several attempts and testing, it was determined the power was not sufficient. Without any hesitation, a father in the audience volunteered to get a car battery from an auto shop – he was our true hero of the day!

After additional testing and re-engineering, the rocket was set up again with the igniter cables attached to our brand new car battery. Once again we counted down “ten, nine, eight” but this time – IGNITION! The rocket shot straight up into the sky while huge smiles shot across the faces of every student, staff member, and visitor.

Everyone shared a special moment of victory in attendance. Students watched the satellite slowly return to earth. One phase of the project, the launch, closed and another step opened, that of analyzing and interpreting the collected data!

One group was so excited to collect their data they retrieved their rogue satellite from the lagoon. It was a fun retrieval operation to witness, minus the smell of the muddy lagoon

Project Exploration continues to provide exposure and access

This summer, our students demonstrated a tremendous capacity to comprehend and execute all of the steps necessary to complete a challenging project.

How do we measure the success of this project? Perhaps the number of students who want to go on to study aerospace engineering? We had a few of those.

Or by the number of students who developed leadership skills and capacities related to engineering, physics, and rocketry? We had that also.

But, we measure our success in so many ways.Dr. Orison Marden said, “Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition, you have encountered.” With opposition as the metric, our Explore Engineering summer program was a brilliant success.


Special thanks to L. Shoulterkarall

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