There are many ways to get a rocket going.
At least if it’s a small one, such as the ones built by the middle school girls who participated in the week-long Applied Mathematics and Aerospace Engineering Summer Academy last week at Cameron University.
“We now have an electric propeller,” Ann Nalley, professor at Cameron and instructor of the academy, said. This offers another way to get the rockets going. But basic chemistry can do the same job just as fine, either with some water, an air pump and a needle in order to create air pressure. Or by using baking soda and vinegar, which both react and produce carbon dioxide, which in turn builds up pressure and therefore acts as propellant, as Nalley explained.
The girls, who will enter sixth, seventh or eighth grade this fall, learned about all of it and much more, such as gravity, projectile motion, G-forces, thrust, aerodynamics as well as measuring angles and distances. Depending on the angle a rocket is shot in the air, it can fly different distances.
“Some go 400 feet in the air,” Nalley said, adding the rockets had a parachute for safe landing.
“I want to pursue a career in aerospace,” Isabel Thoreson, 13, from Bartlesville, said. Although she would like to be an astronaut, “anything in the field will do,” she said.
At the heart of the academy was a field trip to Oklahoma City. First, the middle school girls visited the Science Museum, where they could try out a flight simulator, according to Nalley. Then, they went to the amusement park Frontier City to ride the rollercoasters and measure the G forces with the help of an accelerometer.
“Science is fun,” Nalley said. “And I can teach them a little bit.”
Designing the airplanes was her favorite activity, Amaiah DeLeon Gonzalez, 13, who goes to Lawton Middle School, said.
“I like to create stuff,” she said.
For Evalyne Steger, 13, it’s the fourth time in the camp. A big motivator for her was that she didn’t want “to be put down by boys who say you can’t be anything.” One day, Evalyne wants to be an aerospace engineer.
Charlotte Horn, 12, from Rush Springs, wants to learn more about rockets and airplanes, she said. What she especially liked, though, was the freedom to “walk around and do hands-on” practice.