By Magdalena Stuehrmann
Watch out,unwary wanderers! The open fields behind the Octorara Intermediate Unit havebeen transformed into a NASA-worthy launch pad!
No manned spaceflights orpayloads for the International Space Station will be leaving this pad, however,nor are the members of mission control NASA employees.
Instead, the launch pad behindthe school is seeing use by water bottle rockets and air powered rockets, theirlaunches engineered and carried out by a group of bright, enthusiasticyoungsters at a summer camp.
The class is busy designing and building their soda bottlerockets.
NASA hasbeen in the news quite often recently with the ending of the space shuttleprogram. Public opinion in general seems to be that NASA is slipping a bit.This summer camp, however, shows otherwise.
The Summer of Innovation camp atOctorara, funded by a grant whose partners are NASA, the Chester CountyIntermediate Unit and Immaculata University is one of 36 sites where the campis being held this summer in the region.
The program, now in its second year,is designed to excite young students about math and science during a fun,hands-on summer experience.
The hope is that students will retain more knowledgeover the summer months from the previous school year, and that they will enterthe new year with more enthusiasm for math and science. In the long-term, the program’sfounders hope to inspire generations of students to enter math and sciencerelated fields, possibly even working for NASA in the future.
Studentsexamine astronaut gear.
The Summerof Innovation camp this year at Octorara has been a huge hit, for both theteachers and the students involved. This free, weeklong day camp, led by Mr. DavidBaker and Ms. Amanda Lenton, both teachers at Octorara, features both lessonsand activities in the areas of Earth sciences, aeronautics, rocketry, roboticsand space science.
The materials for the lessons and activities were providedfree to the instructors because of the generous grant for the program, as wasthe training both instructors received at the Goddard Institute and ImmaculataUniversity.
The camp instructors were also provided with instructions for the projectsand other suggestions to help them run the camp smoothly. Though all thisplanning and training have taken place, this is the first time that Mr. Bakerhas been an instructor for the camp, so, he says, “everything’s been a littletrial and error.” This fact, however, seems to make little difference to thechildren involved.
From dayone, the students at the Octorara camp have been kept busy, doing hands-on workapplying the principles and ideas from their lessons to real-life projects.During their time working on Earth science this Monday, the students built clayvolcanoes with baking soda and vinegar eruptions, and measured the simulatedlava flows of each.
Campers bite into freezedried astronaut ice cream.
They also took core samples of the volcanoes from thevolcanoes with straws to figure out the order of the layers. This hands-onactivity was soon-to-be 7th-grader Emily Bright’s favorite activity.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Ms. Bright, about the program, even with the lessonsand note taking. She also enjoyed learning about various wing designs forairplanes and testing her own.
Another young rocketeer, Ms. Hannah Unitis, saidthat her favorite part of the camp had been designing, building and testingpaper airplanes. Ms. Unitis was looking forward to fixing and practicing withher brush both, a simple type of robot each member of the class had createdusing a motor, battery and a toothbrush head, and were scheduled to test andbattle later in the week.
Though it is summertime, most of the students did notmind the note taking that accompanied the lessons and were enthusiastic aboutseeing the way that the principles they learned about took shape and came intoplay during the hands-on portions of the activities.
Wednesdaywas a day of great excitement for the students and instructors – rocket launchday had arrived! Mr. and Mrs. Riess, the parents of a child in the program,volunteered to give extra help during the building of the soda bottle rocketsthe students launched later that day.
The students first learned about Newton’sthree laws of motion and Bernoulli’s principle and then began to design the coneand fins for their soda-bottle-fuselaged rockets. Just like NASA rocket scientists,the students drew up detailed, full-scale templates of for their designs toreceive approval to build from Mr. Baker.
While the students were busy drawing,cutting and gluing, Dr. Stan Terzopolos, an associate professor at Immaculata Universitybrought in some astronaut accouterments to share with the students. Theseincluded a flight suit and helmet, a glove, a food tray and food, all of whichwould be used by astronauts on a space mission.
Anotheryoung camper, Mr. Jude Unitis, mentioned that his favorite part of the campthus far had been eating the space food (especially the ice cream!) that hadbeen provided for the students to try.
Another view of the astronautgear.
His friend, Mr. Bobby Bright, statedthat his favorite activity had been shooting off a test rocket earlier thatmorning, but that he had also enjoyed seeing Bernoulli’s principle on air andlift in action in an experiment with a sheet of paper.
Both boys were lookingforward to testing their brush bots later and said that they were learning alot and having lots of fun.
When thestudents had finished creating and decorating their soda bottle rockets (onenotable rocket made by Mr. Tommy Myers, Mr. Thomas Mellma and Mr. Nick McCawwas decorated with Phillies drawings), they were able to investigate the innerworkings of old dismantled cell phones and make last minute adjustments totheir rockets before launch time.
Each group of students presented theirdesigns and finished rockets and explained, using the principles they hadlearned earlier, why they chose each design.
Then, it was launch time! Weatherconditions permitted the launches to begin and Mission Control watched withgrowing excitement as the first rocket was placed on the launch pad.
Thoughgetting the right pressure for each launch was difficult to gauge, theexperiment went fairly smoothly.
The young scientists, their experimentcompleted, turned their minds to upcoming air powered rocket launches, to theirbrush bots, and to the solar oven they will build on Friday to make s’mores in,immersed in the joys of real science, the promising generation of futureinnovation.