Annual Rocket Day launches lesson in cooperation
Objects at rest tend to stay at rest… unless an electrical signal is sent to an igniter attached to a rocket engine that launches the object into the air at high speed.
More than 150 eighth graders at Beaty-Warren Middle School worked with Newton’s Laws of Motion on Thursday.
It was Rocket Day — an event celebrated at the school for more than 20 years.
Groups of students brought their personalized, themed rockets to the launch platforms, put on safety goggles, hooked the rockets to an ignition system, and, more often than not, launched them skyward.
Each group started with an A engine — the least powerful. Those rockets were relatively easy to track and retrieve.
Part of the fun was sprinting after the rocket, hoping to catch it before it splashed down. The rockets are fitted with parachutes — most of which deployed appropriately on Thursday — in order to slow descent.
After launching with A engines, students could go again.
The B engines fired longer and resulted in the rockets flying higher… and farther.
The C engines really launched the rockets into the sky — potentially to about 2,000 feet.
The launch is held at Beaty field to provide a large space for the rockets to land and the students to run.
Even that is not big enough sometimes.
Some of the students were unable to find their rockets after launch — especially those using larger engines. There was some wind at the field and rockets ended up across Conewango Avenue to the east and possibly points north and west.
One friendly neighbor was reportedly collecting those that landed near him and returning them to students on the field.
Anyone who finds a rocket on their property is asked to return it to Beaty.
The event wrapped up earlier than normal… perhaps because windy conditions were leading to rockets being lost and students didn’t want to take that risk.
Eighth Grade Science Teacher Kari Sullivan was in charge of the event.
“We talk about Newton’s Laws earlier in the year,” she said. “The rocket unit is three weeks of design and construction.”
Students have to come up with a theme for their rockets and students are encouraged to dress in costumes appropriate to those themes.
The unit is not all about gravity, thrust, and air resistance.
“A lot of what it teaches them is cooperation, how to work in a group, how to follow instructions,” Sullivan said.
On Friday, the students will have a review on the parts of the rockets.
There is more.
Most of the students have never launched rockets before Rocket Day and many worry that their rockets will fail and they’ll be embarrassed in front of their friends.
Sooner or later, almost every rocket works. “It builds some confidence,” Sullivan said.
The whole school participates, with classes coming out to the field to watch. “It’s a nice culminating activity for the end of the year,” she said.