What started out as a tongue-in-cheek classroom activity in November of 2009 has turned into a powerful learning opportunity for Northwest Indian College students.
Rockets! Rockets? That was a topic of interest for a couple of students, Justin and Robert, while sitting in Gary’s classroom after the day’s classes. “What can we do with our electronics, computer, and robotics knowledge?”, they mused. One of them suggested rockets and an Internet search quickly demonstrated that that would be an expensive route. They persisted and discovered air/water powered rockets. Recycled soda pop bottles, tire pump, a few feet of ½ inch PVC and we’d be in business.
Justin assembled a launch pad and Gary scouted out the neighborhood recycling bins for 2 liter bottles. A couple of days later we were launching bottles into the air in front of the classroom. Naturally, we attracted a slew of onlookers and well-wishers. We publicized and held weekly launches over the lunch hour that were enthusiastically attended by students as well as the college’s employees.
We quickly realized that there is much more to these rockets than filling with water, pressurizing with air and launching them. Stability, gentle recovery, and re-use ability are key if one wants to do any sort of altitude research, most efficient water/air proportions, amount of air pressure, etc. Did we mention math, materials research, Internet research, aerodynamics, or physics? All of these came into play as we, (by know we added five more students), became more “serious” about how to get them higher and faster. We learned that the current record (2009) for a water/air pressurized rocket is 2,024 feet. Our best altitude to date is 454 feet. We’ve a ways to go!
One of the Internet websites needed and organizational name as part of the registration process. We decided to register ourselves as the Northwest Indian College Space Center. That’s how we got started; but it was just the beginning!