WSTF Employees help Inquisitive Students through Spaceport America’s Launch and Learn Program
NASA’s Summer of Innovation (SoI) program is designed to stimulate student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The SOI program strengthens organizations and schools that inspire and engage underrepresented and underserved middle school students in STEM content. It focuses on organizations that provide student experiences during the summer and the academic year through extended learning efforts designed to keep students involved in NASA-themed STEM activities.
In southern New Mexico, the focus of the SoI was a program called “Launch and Learn.” Students designed rocket payloads that were ultimately flown from New Mexico’s Spaceport America into sub-orbital space aboard a UP Aerospace rocket. Over 2,850 middle school students participated in the SOI “Launch and Learn” program, which was coordinated by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium.
Employees at NASA White Sands Test Facility (WSTF), located near Las Cruces, NM, contributed to many phases of the 2010 – 2011 SoI student launch: including funding, kickoff meeting preparation and teacher training, support in planning teleconferences, student payload judging to determine which payloads would fly, WSTF Hypervelocity display on launch day, and launch day post-flight payload de-integration and data downloading.
The UP Aerospace SpaceLoft 5 rocket was launched on May 20, 2011, carrying student experiments from 28 schools throughout New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.
Most experiments had a research question associated with their payloads. Grace B. Wilson Elementary School in Kirtland, NM, wanted to determine how direct current energy reacts in space to G-forces. They captured the energy data from a small Tesla coil through audio and video recording.
At the launch event, Joe San Filippo, a NASA WSTF Jacobs Technology Inc. employee said this about the event, “It is critically important that we expend resources now to help ensure the well being of future generations. I believe the best way do that is to start cultivating the world’s future innovators and problem solvers right now, by getting young people excited about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), firing their imaginations, getting them HOOKED. Some of these kids will go on to solve problems we don’t even have today.”
NASA WSTF Jacobs Technology Inc. employee Patty Thomas said, “I was assigned to de-integrate the payload and download the data/video to a flash drive for the students. They were so excited; it was really cool and fun. I would definitely consider supporting this program next year.”
Denzil Burnam, Jacobs Technology Inc., is a long-time Rocketeering Club Member volunteer who has over two decades of experience in launching small rockets had this to say, “The student’s inquisitive and innovative approaches in choosing and developing their suborbital payload experiments were refreshing and will immeasurably enhance their future endeavors in whatever field they choose.”
Joe Bullington, Denzil Burnam, Robert Cort (NASA), Patty Thomas, and Joe San Filippo supported the launch event.
Cheerie R. Patneaude
NASA JSC White Sands Test Facility