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NASA Helps High School "Rocket Scientists"
Angela Storey
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

News Release: 05-188

High school teams from California to Virginia are hard at work on plans for space travel, designing rockets they will build and launch toward the heavens next spring with the help of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The students are meeting a unique challenge through NASA's Student Launch Initiative -- an education program that gives high school students practical experience in aerospace and engineering activities. The Marshall Center manages the national program in partnership with the Huntsville Area Rocketry Association.

"The Student Launch Initiative gives young people hands-on experience in rocket science, engineering and the nuts-and-bolts effort it takes to design, build and launch a space craft," said Jim Pruitt, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at the Marshall Center. "Once they complete their education, these young men and women could very well be working on the projects that will take us the moon, on to Mars and beyond."

Participating in the competition this year are six new teams and four returning teams from the 2004-2005 event. The new teams receive a $2,500 grant for their projects. Returning teams receive $1,500. The new teams are from Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Colo.; Madison West High School in Madison, Wis.; Munfordville High School in Munfordville, Ky.; Caro High School in Caro, Mich.; Southfield High School in Southfield, Mich.; and Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla. The returning teams are from the University School of Milwaukee in Milwaukee, Wis.; Oakton High School in Vienna, Va.; Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove, Calif.; and Edison High School in Fresno, Calif.

Each student team designs and builds its own rocket, demonstrates proof of concept -- ensuring the design is feasible and the rocket will perform as intended -- and develops a Web site to keep an online journal of its progress. Students can solicit advice and guidance from engineers in government, business and academia during the design and testing phases. In the course of the experience, they learn problem-solving skills, how to present financial proposals and how to budget.

The teams will display and launch their vehicles in late spring. Each competing vehicle must be designed to carry a tracking device and a recoverable science payload weighing between one-quarter and one-half-pound. The rocket itself is required to reach an altitude of one mile during flight and be reusable. After the flight, the team collects data from the payload, analyzes it and reports the results to Marshall Center engineers who serve as competition judges.

During the competition, NASA engineers and scientists will evaluate each rocket design including propulsion systems, materials used for construction, payload and safety features. They also will look at the altitude reached, how the teams conducted formal reviews and their Web site designs.

The new teams invited to participate in the Student Launch Initiative were chosen from schools competing in the 2005 Team America Rocketry Challenge at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. The top 25 teams at the 2005 Challenge were invited to submit proposals to participate in the 2006 Student Launch Initiative.

For more information, visit the Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Web page at: