Lift, drag, gravity, mass, and Newton's Laws of Motion.
All of those factors played roles in the events of the annual Beaty-Warren Middle School rocket launch last Friday.
So did learning and having a good time.
The annual Beaty-Warren Middle School rocket launch.
The students involved worked on cross-curricular projects related to rockets and the launch.
Math and sciences were natural fits for the rocketry, but teachers made sure the unit included writing and history, too.
"This project benefited us by helping us with our writing skills," student Bob McAvoy said. "We wrote an essay about how to build a rocket."
Times Observer photos by Brian Ferry
Up, up and away!
Members of Team Betty White (from left) Steffen Blair, Anna Falvo, and Darren Liu (photo top left) watch as their rocket, the Cure, begins its graceful ascent. At right, Science Teacher Kari Sullivan helps DaleAnna Wightman track her launch.
They learned some of the history of rockets by watching a movie.
They got some details of practical applications of rockets by speaking with John Mangus of Warren, who has worked on both the Hubble and James Webb space telescope projects for NASA.
On the day of the launch, the students were loud and enthusiastic.
"It's really fun," McAvoy said.
Objects in motion...
Newton's First Law says that objects in motion will remain in motion and objects at rest will remain at rest until force is applied.
"When you put it on the launch pad, it's going to stay there until a force acts upon it," student Scott Miller explained. "The force will be the engine."
When the engine fires, the upward force moves the rocket off the pad into the air.
"In motion, it's going to stay in motion until a force acts upon it," he said.
Gravity is the primary force that slows the rocket's ascent and eventually sends it back earthward.
"The engine is pushing it up," Miller said. "Gravity will be pulling it down."
But there are other forces working on the rocket.
"With rockets, once they launch, the fins cause drag," McAvoy said. "That slows the rocket down."
As gravity brings the rocket back down, friction with the air slows the descent. Each rocket was packed with a parachute. The engine's last act is to blast the nose of the rocket off, freeing the chute.
"In our case, the parachute is slowing the fall," Miller said.
The parachutes dramatically increase drag and allow the rockets, in many cases, to fall slowly enough that students can safely catch them - if they can reach the landing point in time.
Force, mass, acceleration
The Second Law states the relationship between force, mass and acceleration - force equals mass times acceleration.
Some students prefer small rockets. Some go for large rockets. The size plays a major role in how high the rockets will get. The engines provide the same force, so a rocket with a larger mass will have a lower acceleration.
"The lighter the rocket, the higher it can be launched," Science Teacher Carolyn Yurick said.
The students used three sizes of engines - A, B, and C, with C engines the strongest - at the launch. "The greater the impulse of an engine the higher it can send a rocket," Yurick said.
An A engine can launch a standard rocket as high as 400 feet. Rockets with B engines can rise to 800 feet, and a C engine can take its vessel to 1,600 feet.
The 172 students on the two teams - Blue and White - were broken up into. Altogether, there were 127 launches. One rocket reportedly exploded. Some launches ended in unrecoverable rockets. A team's launch day is usually over when the wind carries their rocket into a tree or the Conewango Creek.
On the White Team, the Gaga Monsters' rocket reached a top speed of 76 miles per hour and flew upward for 3.56 seconds before reaching its apex. The rockets of teams Boom and Pudding Patrol each attained speeds of 70 miles per hour.
The Blue team pushed the envelope with a top speed of 79 miles per hour to 3.82 seconds by the Speed of Lights; and two 75-mile per hour shots, one by Awesome Ninja Chicks and the other by Post Apocalyptic Owls.
Team NA(17) Batman touched the sky with a C engine that took their rocket to a speed of 70 miles per hour. The rocket did not begin its return to earth for 6.84 seconds.
Equal and opposite reaction
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
There are several examples of this in the rocketry, but there are two very basic to the work.
The engine fires downward - the rocket goes upward.
And, "when the rocket goes up into the air, eventually it has to fall the same distance," McAvoy said.