NASA's space flight program has come to a halt with the retirement of the space shuttle, but the rocket program at Beaty-Warren Middle School is alive and thriving.
Eighth-grade students at Beaty fired off rocket after rocket on Friday afternoon. Some traveled so well residents who live close to the school will find rockets in their yards, some barely got off the ground, and the parachutes didn't deploy on others.
"When they get to the launching pad, many are not confident and get nervous," science teacher Carolyn Yurick said. "They get very excited that their project is successfully launched at such speeds and altitudes."
Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton
Beaty-Warren Middle School students Alexa Morrison, left, and Katie Freeborough, with help from volunteers Andy Yurick and John Mangus, watch a rocket leave the landing pad on Friday afternoon at the Beaty football field.
One student shouted, "Holy guacamole!" when her rocket soared into the partly cloudy skies.
"That was cool," another exclaimed.
And while the rocket launches are undoubtedly "cool," the project is about so much more than that.
Asked what concepts are taught with the project, Yurick said, "The students are instructed on Newton's three laws of motion and how they apply to rockets. I discuss the four forces that act on a rocket, which are thrust, lift, drag and weight."
Yurick explained that the students are given the choice of one of five rocket kits (Wizard, High Flier, Baby Bertha, Guardian or Alpha). The project takes a week to complete: three days of construction, one day of painting and one day to learn how to pack the parachute, load the engines and learn the safety rules.
"The rocket models will have different masses and we give them three different engine sizes so they can see how Newton's second law is applied," she explained "The force is equal to the mass of the rocket times the acceleration. The size of the engines determines the amount of thrust."
But the learning opportunities don't stop there.
"Students are given an informational writing assignment after rocket day," she added. "They will write the directions on how to build a rocket and they will explain how each of Newton's laws apply to rocketry."
And the project wasn't limited to science class.
"In math class, they designed four different parachutes and calculated the time it took to descend. They were investigating the material of the parachute and the surface areas in determining rates of descent. The students watch October Sky in the morning and we discuss Sputnik and rocket science in the late 1950s. This is an interdisciplinary unit for our eighth-grade team," Yurick explained.
Rocket day is several years old at Beaty, but still seems like a hit.
"Rocket Day is popular because students find it exciting that they get a chance to build something," Yurick said.