Severance and Windsor Excessive Faculty college students be taught physics, engineering and endurance with rocket launch
Technology can be tricky, whether resetting home Wi-Fi or launching a model rocket, as Severance High School senior Alex Baldwin learned Wednesday morning.
Baldwin was among the nearly 100 students from Severance and Windsor high schools, robotics and physics classes to take their work into the field, launching the rockets from a practice field on the north side of Windsor high and middle schools.
Baldwin was also among the students who experienced technical difficulties. The rocket didn’t launch on the first or second attempt. He identified the issue with help from a University of Colorado Boulder Aerospace Engineering Sciences instructor.
“Technology is a bit confusing still,” Baldwin said of a lesson of the day. “Just a problem so simple, just touching two wires wouldn’t make it work.”
Severance High School senior Alex Baldwin preps his rocket for launch on rocket launch day at Windsor High School in Windsor Oct. 5, 2022. Students in robotics and physics classes at Windsor High School and Severance High School built model rockets and came together to launch them on the football practice field Wednesday. Sensors inside the rocket nose cones recorded information about the flights for later analysis by the students. (Alex McIntyre/Staff Photographer)
Once the rocket launched, it did so with force and traveled high into the sky over the Windsor fields with the parachute deployed.
“That was worth the wait,” said Jason Gentry, an assistant coach with the Windsor High School robotics club as Baldwin’s model powered through the air.
Matt Rhode, the aerospace mechanical design and manufacturing lab manager at the CU school, returned to Windsor to work with the students for the second-straight year of “rocket day” or “launch day” as the event is known.
Wednesday’s launch was held a year to the day from 2021 when Rhode worked with Windsor students from Brian Ash’s Advanced Placement physics class and Steve Cline’s robotics class. Cline, a science and STEM teacher and robotics coach at Windsor High, organized the rocket days.
This year, student participation was expanded to include Severance with Jesiah Jeffers’ robotics and Danny Quinn’s physics classes.
Last year, Rhode initiated the rocket project for the Weld RE-4 School District. He obtained a $2,000 grant through CU to purchase electronics and hardware, and the Weld RE-4 Education Foundation assisted with about $1,500 this year. Cline added some of the equipment will be reusable.
Quinn said data from the rockets measuring thrust — which is the force it moves through the air — acceleration, velocity and height will be analyzed later. The data comes from a sensor pack fitted in the nosecone of the rockets.
“It’s something real as opposed to problems on a worksheet,” Quinn said.
Windsor High School robotics teacher Steve Cline, front right, grabs a piece of wadding to insulate the parachute in a rocket to hand to a student on rocket launch day at Windsor High School in Windsor Oct. 5, 2022. At left is Windsor physics teacher Brian Ash. Students in robotics and physics classes at Windsor High School and Severance High School built model rockets and came together to launch them on the football practice field. Sensors inside the rocket nose cones recorded information about the flights for later analysis by the students. (Alex McIntyre/Staff Photographer)
The rockets were constructed from kits made by Estes Alpha Rockets, a Penrose-based company and a well-known name in model rockets, according to Cline.
He said the parachutes deployed in all of the rockets launched on Wednesday, which wasn’t the case a year ago. Some of the rockets this year went higher and faster into the air. Cline said some of the rockets were lighter than those used a year ago and others contained more powerful motors.
The students at both schools benefitted from pre-launch tutorials from Conway Stevens with the Northern Colorado Rocketry Club. Cline said Stevens spoke with the students about how to build the rockets and pack the parachutes.
“I think that’s why they were more successful,” Cline said.
Severance’s Baldwin wasn’t the only student who had trouble with the launch. Windsor students Johnnie Reed and Brady Bostic teamed up on a rocket, and they too had to wait through a handful of tries to see the result of their work.
Severance High School seniors Sadie Vaughn, left, and Lucas Garcia are shrouded in smoke as their rocket climbs on rocket launch day at Windsor High School in Windsor Oct. 5, 2022. Students in robotics and physics classes at Windsor High School and Severance High School built model rockets and came together to launch them on the football practice field Wednesday. Sensors inside the rocket nose cones recorded information about the flights for later analysis by the students. (Alex McIntyre/Staff Photographer)
“It was a bad igniter so when we went a couple of times, it wasn’t working,” Reed explained. “A little bit disappointing. But we got a new igniter, pressed the button and it went.”
Reed is a junior in AP physics. Bostic, a senior, is also in AP physics, and he has experience with robotics.
Bostic thought they had the problem solved after the third failed launch, but they needed two additional tries. On the fifth attempt, Bostic wasn’t sure if the parachute would deploy. It did, and Bostic called the sight “awesome.”
Both Reed and Bostic accepted success and failure were part of the experience.
“Trial and error is definitely the biggest part,” Bostic said. “If something doesn’t work, with engineering, you have to figure out why it doesn’t work. It didn’t work the first couple of times, but you try, try, try again.”