Blast off!

— Fath­er Judge stu­dents re­cently ig­nited their own ver­sion of rock­et sci­ence on the school's soc­cer field.


Does the word “tri­go­no­metry” stir pain­ful high school memor­ies? Did you suf­fer through sines and tremble through tan­gents?

Be­lieve it or not, some stu­dents at Fath­er Judge re­cently had some fun with trig. Of course, they were set­ting off rock­ets at the time.

Fif­teen Judge stu­dents, along with teach­ers Art Gutz­ler and Joy Kots, launched 18 mod­el rock­ets on the school’s soc­cer field on Aug. 16 as they were wind­ing up a two-week sum­mer sci­ence pro­gram. The in­struc­tion in­cluded train­ing at Drexel Uni­versity and the Na­tion­al Aerospace Train­ing and Re­search Cen­ter in Southamp­ton.

Stu­dents used tri­go­no­metry to meas­ure how high their rock­ets soared, said Greg Kennedy, NASTAR’s edu­ca­tion­al ser­vices dir­ect­or.

A couple of the stu­dents set up equip­ment that meas­ured the rock­ets’ angles of as­cent, Kennedy said dur­ing a phone in­ter­view last week. They were a set dis­tance from the launch site. Us­ing that dis­tance and the angle meas­ure­ments, they were able to use the trig func­tion tan­gent to meas­ure the rock­ets’ zeniths be­fore they star­ted to des­cend.

The foot-high, 3-ounce rock­ets, as­sembled from kits, rose about 200 feet be­fore they came back down to Earth. Their des­cent was slowed by plastic sheet­ing that de­ployed, Kennedy said.

The launches demon­strated New­ton’s Laws of Mo­tion as well as ac­cel­er­a­tion and the prin­ciples of ac­tion and re­ac­tion.

“We had a ball,” he said.

Set­ting off rock­ets at the high school’s Solly Av­en­ue cam­pus oc­curred near the end of a two-week pro­gram de­signed by the Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee of the high school’s board of ad­visers. The pro­gram began on Aug. 6 at Drexel’s School of Bio­med­ic­al En­gin­eer­ing, Sci­ence and Health Sys­tems.

Five Drexel stu­dents, part of Drexel’s weServe Pro­gram, provided a col­lege per­spect­ive for the Judge ju­ni­ors and seni­ors, said the Rev. James Dalton, the high school’s prin­cip­al.

Un­der the su­per­vi­sion of weServe dir­ect­or Shir­in Karsan, the Judge stu­dents learned in the first week about the de­vel­op­ment of the hu­man body, bio­lo­gic­al rhythms and physiology as ap­plied to aerospace. They en­gin­eered a soft land­ing of an egg from a bal­cony and dis­sec­ted a pig’s heart.

From Aug. 13 through 17, the Judge stu­dents learned about the the­ory and mech­an­ics of flight and rock­ets at NASTAR, a sub­si­di­ary of En­vir­on­ment­al Tec­ton­ics Corp., which man­u­fac­tures avi­ation search and train­ing equip­ment like flight sim­u­lat­ors.

“This is the first time we did a high school pro­gram,” Kennedy said.

The rock­ets the stu­dents set off on Aug. 16, were mod­els of 20-foot UP Aerospace Spaceloft XL, Kennedy said, which is a rock­et that is avail­able for com­mer­cial uses.

Al­though the mod­els come in kits, their mo­tors come pre-man­u­fac­tured, Kennedy said. They’re very safe, he ad­ded. The stu­dents don’t handle pro­pel­lants.

“The rock­et has a black powder-based pro­pel­lant,” he said. That launches the rock­et, and it ac­cel­er­ates un­til it reaches its apex, or highest point, and then a charge in the top pushes out the rock­et’s re­cov­ery sys­tem, a plastic stream­er, and then the rock­et des­cends, Kennedy said.

Stu­dents also launched 20-ounce plastic soda bottles, Kennedy said, by rig­ging up wa­ter and air pres­sure, us­ing a bi­cycle pump.

Those rock­ets wer­en’t kits, Kots said in a phone in­ter­view Aug. 24. The stu­dents de­signed them.

“They got to tinker with what works and with what doesn’t work,” she said.

On the last day of the pro­gram, the Judge stu­dents pi­loted a flight sim­u­lat­or, Kennedy said.

“They loved that,” he said. “They got a chance to see what it feels like to fly an air­plane.”


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