When NASA cut funding for its high school programs this year, Spring Grove's plans to build a rocket could have ended too.
Instead, 10 students worked to secure grants and other funding support to continue where NASA's funding couldn't, resulting in a rocket that will be launched this weekend at an event in Maryland.
Spring Grove was chosen by NASA to have a Student Launch Initiative team in the 2012-13 school year after one of its rocketry teams finished fourth at a national rocket event, said Brian Hastings, adviser for the launch team and the school's Rocket Scientists. The funding was good for two years.
Then the government shutdown and sequestration last year led to the cut of NASA's high school programming, and funding for a new rocket Spring Grove's team had designed over this past summer.
New funding: So the team secured a $5,000 grant through the Lowe's Toolbox for Education program, $1,000 from the Spring Grove Educational Foundation, a matching grant from Raytheon and the use of data collection equipment from Vernier.
The rocket the students built is about twice as large as the one built last year through NASA's program, Hastings said. It measures 6 inches in diameter and is about 11 feet long, weighing about 30 pounds, he said. The rocket is expected to fly about 5,800 feet into the air and will measure whether electromagnetic waves are stronger at higher altitudes, Hastings said.
Those measurements, or the "payload" as Hastings calls them, will be analyzed by Vernier after the launches.
The team will launch the rocket once with a dummy payload, in case there would be any issues with the mechanics. Then the rocket will launch another three times, collecting the data.
Hastings said building rockets teach his students about the unpredictable nature of science: Sometimes a rocket's design and construction is spot-on, but it still goes up in flames during a launch.
"There's no way you can predict that," he said.
But if all goes well, the rocketry team will launch four times this weekend and collect data they will be able to publish in a few rocketry-related publications, Hastings said. And if all goes as planned, Hastings said the rocket — hopefully still in one piece — will be displayed in his classroom with the rocket launched last year.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.