Rockets, sunshine and science equaled a great day for nearly 60 Garfield Elementary School sixth-graders.
“That was the first time I built a rocket,” said 12-year-old Makaela Davis, the first student to catch her model rocket after it raced hundreds of feet into the blue sky Monday before floating to the ground by parachute.
“That was awesome,” she said.
Students who gathered on Andrew Rypien Field had spent a few hours in the classroom learning about gravity, trajectory, thrust and how to calculate height in preparation of the final launch.
The project’s goal is to spark student interest in science, technology, engineering and math through an engaging activity. Garfield teacher Sam Stachofsky has led the effort for three years with the help of a donation from South Spokane Rotary Club.
“It’s a gateway to those subjects before kids head off to middle school,” Stachofsky said.
Science is solving problems, he said. He asked the students, for example, to think about what they can do to help the rocket overcome gravity.
“We talk about how you can’t see the air, but you can feel it. Gravity keeps the rocket weighed down,” he said. “They can work on the fins to make it more aerodynamic and talk about why you do that.”
Students not only worked on the rocket’s fins to make their craft faster, they personalized the entire thing.
Arianna Brown decorated her rocket with nail polish and spray paint to “protect it from the weather.” Kristen Marie Peterson really likes Justin Bieber, so she painted his name in pink multiple times. Some added glitter, used Sharpies to write messages or add color stripes and at least one boy went with Batman colors – black and yellow.
One young man’s dad couldn’t resist putting his hand to a rocket.
“While I was doing my chores, my dad painted it,” Josh Campbell said. “First he painted it chrome. He literally spent hours painting the flames.”
One by one, students took turns launching the rockets with a button attached to a battery-powered ignition system. Most had small engines. A few had enough power to shoot the vessels out of sight.
“Whenever I looked up, I got dizzy,” said Lexi Kapelke, 12. “I think this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
A few rockets propelled a blue Lego mini figure volunteered from a 12-year-old’s toy box. The toy would launch from the fuselage after being shot in the sky. Students already knew he fell at a rate of 19 feet every 1.4 seconds, and they used a ratio to calculate his distance in the rocket. Twice the tiny blue figure soared to about 350 feet, according to a student with a calculator.
Chloe Palmer, one of the first to launch a rocket, summed up the science project in four words: “Rockets are really cool.”