Sky High Learning

JRE students launch rockets and imaginations

With assistance from a Julia Randall Rocket launcher, Azuceha Coronado, left, gets a nearly perfect take-off from one of the four launch pads set up in the playground area of the school.

Photo by Andy Towle. |

With assistance from a Julia Randall Rocket launcher, Azuceha Coronado, left, gets a nearly perfect take-off from one of the four launch pads set up in the playground area of the school.





“Lookit it go!”

Fifth-graders at Julia Randall Elementary cried out as rockets flew into the air.

About 180 students spent the last week of school building six-inch rockets to launch over the playground.

Principal Rob Varner took time out of his day to check out the action.

“I think this is a great activity,” he said, “Talk about the science behind rocketry.”

The project teaches students about the parts of a rocket; the aerodynamics of its flight, Newton’s laws of motion, how the center of gravity and pressure affect the flight, and how the fuel they use propels the rocket.


Tailer Massie-Yates puts a finishing touch on her rocket in preparation for launching in Mr. Gorry's 5th grade class.

Austin Rice a student in Alan Ammann’s, class explained the stages of the rocket as he had learned them from the project:

“First — ignition, second — lift off, third — burn out, fourth — coasting period, fifth — apogee, (the apex of the rocket’s flight), sixth — parachute ejection, seventh — soft landing,” he said counting off the stages on his fingers to not forget anything.

Then Austin explained that to build each rocket, the student started by carving the nose cone.

Then they cut out the fins, which stabilize the rocket. Third, they screwed in a screw eye for the parachute. A rubber band shock cord held the streamer parachute in place.

Then wadding was stuffed into the body of the rocket — a half-inch round tube that looked as if it came from a paper towel.

“The wadding was fireproof and was light green,” said Austin.

On top of the wadding, the students rolled up the streamer and stuck it on top.

The nose cone, so long as it fit, topped off the wadding and streamer.

“Then we put the fins on. We had to wait 10 minutes for the glue to dry,” said Austin, “It felt like forever!”

Next the rocket builders put a metal tab inserted into a straw to conduct the starter fuel to the engine.

The teachers put the engine into the rocket.

“The ignition of the engine uses gunpowder — we teachers handle that,” said Ammann.

Trevor Creighton, one of the six fifth-grade teachers, started the rocket project about 15 years ago. From the excited cries of the children, it seems a popular project.


This student was so busy with the controls he missed his rocket taking off. The classes participating in the rocket building learned a few new skills, principles of flight, preparation for a intricate event and the meaning of planning a succesful venture.

Each child can personalize their rocket — from coloring the sides to forming the nose and cutting out the fins.

“I kinda like got it (the idea for how to form my rocket) from real rockets from movies I’ve watched,” said Andrew Ward, a student in Ammann’s class. He designed the fins on his rocket with an edge taken off the triangle allowing the rocket to fly higher in the sky than most others.

The flight of Andrew’s rocket elicited ooh’s and aah’s from everyone.

Karson Butler’s rocket cavorted in the air.

“Mine was a stunt rocket, it flipped like five times,” he said.

Looking out over the field, the boys pointed out somebody’s rocket got caught in the trees.

The day after finishing the rocket flights, Ammann said the students would watch the movie, “October Sky.”

“This was the greatest experience of my life,” said Austin.


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