Students got a taste of space by launching rockets more than 1,000 feet over Underwood Elementary School.
The students, all from Wauwatosa West High School, are part of Todd DeZeeuw's aerospace engineering class, which has entered its second year. All curriculum for the class is provided by Project Lead the Way, a national provider of all things science, technology, engineering and mathematics related. The rockets are one small step in their giant leap into space studies.
Countdown and blast off
The students engineered their rockets using software developed by NASA. The software accounted for variables including the rocket's length, weight and fin configuration as well as wind speed and direction.
After plugging in all the numbers, the students cut their rocket's fins and cardboard tubes, adjusting their size and shape. While doing this, some students added a personal touch. Some had slogans on the side of their rockets, while others took them home for a glossy spray-painting.
The students, according to DeZeeuw, took to engineering their rockets with a zealous fervor.
"They're motivated and they work hard," he added. "It's a lot of fun."
Each student engineered and launched their own rockets, with teams helping to calculate the rocket's peak altitude. They used the Pythagorean theorem by locking in the angle at which the rocket peaked and using their distance from the launch to make a triangle.
Senior Brandon Thao said he was proud of his rocket, which had a near-perfect launch. While adding he worked hard on it, he said, "I'm just glad it didn't mess up."
The rockets are the first step in the student's space-based curriculum. They are poised to work on projects such as designing and launching wooden gliders, remotely controlling rover-style robots and creating wind generators.
While the class is still new to the district, DeZeeuw wants to take it further than last year. The curriculum, he said, is ambitious and last year the class wasn't able to build their own wind generators. He said that this year, without a doubt, his class will work on the generators.
DeZeeuw has had an interest in space since he saw the Apollo 11 mission land on the moon. He ran the planetarium in his college days and runs the planetarium at West.
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