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Science Center students build, launch their own rockets

Science Center students build, launch their own rockets

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NEWTON – Local youth took aim at the sky Sunday as they launched rockets they helped to design at the Catawba Science Center in recent weeks.

It was part of the Introduction to Rocketry project taught through the Center’s Tech Club. The launch took place at the Fairgrounds in Newton.

“It was a lot of fun…I felt a little anxious and it was a little scary until it launched,” Charles Fields, a fifth-grader at Oakwood Elementary, said after watching his rocket go off.

The group (grades 5-8) learned to design their rocket using computer modeling, Computer-Aided Design systems and even used a 3D printer to build parts for the rocket they designed.

“Most of my staff, this isn’t our area of knowledge,” Catawba Science Center Director of Programs Erin Graves said. “Our goal is they are using other skills when they can with the different projects we offer in the club. In this case, learning computer-based modeling for their design choices.”

US Conec – a technology company in Hickory – supplied volunteers to help run the course and provide the additional programming expertise needed. The students began the process of creating their own rocket on Oct. 23 with meetings in November and December.

“We gave them basic kits but then we had them take it apart and model them with simulation software, so they had to design the whole thing again and with their input it would calculate how high it went and how far it would go,” US Conec volunteer Dirk Shoellner said. “Then they had to figure out what changes they could do to make it better…they designed nose cones and in most cases the fins on the rocket.”

The other US Conec volunteers included Mitchell Cloud, Joe Kaminski and Alex Crooks. They also pitched in on launch day, helping to get the group organized and the rockets set up to launch.

Thomas Fields was eager to see his son Charles complete the project and liked how hands-on the project was for the kids.

“The fun part was it was the first time he got to design and even from the coding standpoint, then do 3D printing and turn it all into something that actually flies,” Fields said. “This is actually doing something with a real life object, which is way cooler for him…it’s really blended what you see in technology into a fun game.”

For Ethan Garrett, a seventh-grade home school student, designing the nose cone was a fun challenge. There was a problem getting it to 3D print properly but managed to get past it with some ingenuity and duct tape.

He’s passion are trains so he looks forward to turning his new designing skills towards a project in that field next.

Rebecca Reyes-Mejia was the only girl on the project, but she was ready to jump in and build and watch her rocket blast off. The fifth-grader from Webb A. Murray Elementary, said she’d never seen a rocket launch before Sunday.

“It was fun getting to design the fins and nose cone and learning how it helps the rocket go as high as it can,” Reyes-Mejia said. “I didn’t know that the paper we had to put into the rocket was fire retardant and if you didn’t put it in the parachute would catch on fire.”

The program is sponsored by CSC’s Science Discovery Endowment Fund.

Scholarships for the Tech Club may be available. Limited scholarships provided by US Conec. Contact CSC at 828-322-8169 or email for details or to register for an upcoming project.



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