Project teaches students about math and science

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

For Alice High School AFJROTC students, the sky's the limit this week, literally. All six cadet classes participated in a rocket-launching project and learned about aerodynamics, rocketry and teamwork.

Students spent time in the classroom putting together their Alpha rocket kits in pairs, and personalized them using markers and other items. During the preparation time, students learned about the importance of considering air speed and direction, along with basic rocket aerodynamics, and how to measure the altitude of a rocket after launch.

Col. Glenn J. Larsen (ret.), Senior Aerospace Science Instructor at AHS said rocketry is a great way for cadets to learn more about math and science. "By conducting projects like this one, students are learning about the math and science involved with rocketry, and at the same time, by working together in pairs, learning the value of team work," Larsen said.

The wind Thursday afternoon began at a calm 10 miles per hour, heading in a northwest direction, when the students began to set up at the student parking lot behind the high school. One group of students was designated as the rocket collection unit, and another was assigned the task of determining the altitude at the rocket's highest point. Initially, the group suffered three non-starts, when three rockets failed to fire on the launch pad. Larsen determined that since the three "A" class engines came from the same package that it was a case of one bad batch and he was correct. The students carried their rockets inside, the engines were removed and with new engines, the rockets were ready to go. No misfires occurred during the second launch phase, although Larsen tilted the launch pad slightly, to correct for the changing wind direction coming from the north instead of northwest. The students were overjoyed watching their creations take flight, and with the adjustment, the rockets and their parachutes dropped closer to the recovery team.

"I've never flown a rocket before, it was pretty exciting. This was probably the best time I've ever had in class before. It was pretty cool," Oscar Gallegos said. He along with classmate Petra Perez worked on the rocket that attained the highest altitude of the class at 62 meters.

"I really want to continue launching rockets. It was really great being out there. We learned a lot this week about the importance of wind speed, and how changing the angle at the pad will help with the landing of the rocket. After the Col. (Larsen) adjusted it, we started seeing them land much closer to us," Perez said.

Larsen announced that he will be starting a Rocketry Club at the high school in February for interested cadets.

In the beginning, there will be a bit of classroom instruction, going more in-depth about rocket flight, and aerodynamics, he said

"The group is really for those cadets who want to know more about rocketry and we'll get into high flying, heavier payload carrying rockets," Larsen said.

In rocketry, the A class engines are the smallest rocket motors, with B class then being twice as powerful, and then C class. The Alpha rockets students used Thursday were the most basic rockets available.

Those who participate in the club will eventually work up to larger rockets and engines.

Larsen said, if the group advances, then down the road, they might eventually see rockets launch at speeds of 300 to 400 miles per hour.