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Union Grove students head to New Mexico missile range to launch rocket

By Bridget Ortigo
July 1, 2014 at 11:53 a.m.

Fifteen Union Grove High School students are headed to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at the end of this month to launch a rocket.

Union Grove ISD is one of nine school districts in the nation to participate in the Systems Go Goddard level rocketry program in which students build, design and launch their own rockets. The Goddard level is the highest of three levels in the rocketry program. The school is one of five to launch their rockets later this month in White Sands.

"This has been an awesome program for our students," Superintendent Brian Gray said. "It's been amazing to see what our students can do."

In its fourth year of the program, the school has to date launched eight small rockets with plans to launch one large rocket at the missile range on July 29 or 30.

"This is their largest rocket so far," Gray said about the nearly 20-foot-long rocket. "The first year they participated, they launched a rocket one mile in the air. The second year they launched a supersonic rocket that broke the speed of sound."

The group consists of 16 students, one of whom is unable to travel to New Mexico. The students were at the school Tuesday to test the rocket's igniter switch.

"The students have been working on this since August, everyday, even during the summer," Gray said.

Union Grove students hope to break the standing record of 36,000 feet for a Goddard level rocket launch. The military will conduct the launch but the students will set everything up.

"I hope we beat the record," senior Christian Delaney said. "We've been working on finding the right shape and materials so it would be strong enough to launch."

This year's rocket has a GPS device and camera installed inside. The camera will film the launch from the rocket's point of view. The GPS device will help locate the pieces of the rocket for recovery on the 40-square-mile launch area.

Before students could start construction, their rocket design had to first pass some pretty stiff approval.

"NASA engineers have to approve the design before the students can begin constructing the rocket," Gray said.

While many curriculum subjects are used and discussed for the project, the students earn physics credits for participating in the rocketry program.

"They learn real world, hands on, basic research skills," teacher Greg Park said. "They have encountered problems along the way, then they research the problem and find a solution."

The students also said they have learned a great deal about teamwork.

"We each had a piece of the rocket to work on," senior Zachary Wallace said. "I worked on the injector system."

Senior Kassidy Kruse worked on the parachutes and cooling system for the engine.

"I started three years ago and I've definitely learned problem solving skills and teamwork," Kruse said.

Senior Daylee Dyess said she has considered a career in engineering after participating in the program.

"We've learned things that will help us in the real world," Dyess said. "I've thought about aerospace. It's a big possibility I will enter that field of study."

The agriculture and welding students also helped out by welding the rocket pieces together.

"It has been a team project for the school and community," Park said.



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