As many of you may know, Project Exploration’s Explore Technology program has the opportunity to make rockets this semester. The class is already underway with the gracious help of our Board Chair Dr. Judy Lubin. Dr. Lubin was kind enough to sit down with me and give her thoughts on the class so far as well as some insight into the specifics of the class activities.
When posed the first simple, albeit obscure question “why rocketry?”, it became clear that Dr. Lubin’s interest in the topic went far beyond simple understanding to utter passion. Eyes alight with a fervor not often seen, Dr. Lubin explained that Rocketry is fascinating because it is a culmination of so many different sciences: physics aerodynamics, and electronics just to name a few. Rocketry itself evokes an innate sense of wonder and curiosity that dives science exploration, and though it may seem simple in form and task, the forces at work are unforgiving to the flight of a rocket. The building of a rocket provides stimulating and exciting hands-on work in building the rocket housing and installing the components, and fascinating mathematics to ensure that everything is finely tuned to near perfection. Dr. Lubin explained that there is such low tolerance in the aerodynamics that the rocket is likely to fail if everything is not accounted for.
“But how hard can it really be?”, you may ask. “It’s not rocket scie-… oh wait.” Yes, indeed, Project Exploration is teaching our students rocket science. The class plans to break into two teams and create two separate six foot tall rockets. These models, according to some quick math by Dr. Lubin, will travel over a mile into the air with a momentum of 1200 newton seconds. Now, for all of you out there that just nodded your head and said, “Yes, that sounds like a lot”, don’t worry because Dr. Lubin was kind enough to put it into more relatable terms. Roughly that is 270 pounds of thrust. In other words, these rockets could lift something that is 270 pounds. That’s nearly the weight of a small engine block and 70 pounds more than a typical elephant calf!
It is still early in the semester, so the kids are currently learning an intuitive overview of the complex interplay between aerodynamic forces. Dr. Lubin brought in a wind tunnel to demonstrate the forces of gravity, lift, thrust, and drag. This further aided in explaining to the students why a rocket is shaped the way it is and why its form plays an important role in ensuring a steady flight.
As Dr. Lubin explained, it’s not just an activity; it’s a challenge, a problem to be solved, a seemingly insurmountable task to be to be accomplished with so much to discover as the project nears its completion. If she feels this strongly about the term so far, I can only imagine how excited the kids must be! The rockets are scheduled to launch on April 29th, giving the class two shots at success after 13 weeks of hard work. With Dr. Lubin’s knowledge and ardent passion for the project, we are all expecting a successful launch. Stay tuned for more updates on our blog at www.pe3.dev/blog.
Written By: Lukas C. Cottingham, Marketing and Communications Director