STREAM Fires Up During All Saints Catholic School Rocket Launch

Jun 07, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy With teacher James Carr’s encouragement, sixth-grader Malia Fritz fires off one of 16 rockets launched by All Saints Regional Catholic School student groups on June 5.

While eighth-grader Charlotte Dwyer controlled the drone hovering about 50 yards off the ground, seventh-grader Mackenzie Pritchard and sixth-grader Chris Prosperi waited a short distance away, while teacher James Carr and sixth-grader MattDaniel Cuomo made final preparations.

After a month of hard work and refinement, the All Saints Regional Catholic School group – along with the rest of the school, including Principal Kathy Blazewicz, standing a few hundred feet away – was ready to see if the rocket they had built was going to fly on June 5.

“Being the first group to go, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Dwyer, the lead “engineer” of the four-student group, which was one of 16 groups to fire off rockets behind the St. Mary’s Parish Center as they culminated their big STREAM project for the spring. “I wasn’t sure if it would go. We thought we had it all right and that it would fly, but you don’t know until it goes. I was happy when I saw it go up.”

Cuomo pushed the button on the electrical igniter, the rocket fired up and, with a powerful hiss, shot up toward the sky. As the rocket veered to the west a bit, its progression slowed and eventually stopped a couple of hundred feet above one of the roller hockey rinks inside Doc Cramer Sports Complex. As it began to fall, the nose cone popped and a parachute busted out.

Only one problem occurred. The parachute never unraveled, and the rocket began a wind-blown descent toward the ground. It crashed 15 seconds later.

For Dwyer’s launch group and the 15 others launching behind them, the launches were a learning experience. Such is learning in their Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math classes, during which the students of All Saints prepare for the future. All Saints’ STREAM classes are every Friday toward the end of the school day, and all grades from pre-kindergarten through eighth participate.

“We started the STREAM curriculum this year, and the students love it,” said fifth/sixth-grade science teacher Barbara Panagis. “We developed projects for the entire school year, and this was one of the main projects for the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes. Mr. Carr and I attended a seminar at Neumann University in Pennsylvania last summer, and we attended one class on rocket building. At one point, Jim turned to me and said, ‘Let’s shoot off some rockets.’ And I was all for the idea. It was exciting to see the students go through this project. It was very successful.”

Utilizing various materials, each group constructed single-fuse-propelled rockets, designed to eject a parachute so that the rockets would land back on the earth without crashing. Dwyer’s group used a combination of materials that included a golf-club-protector tube, a plastic champagne glass, pieces of a yard-sign board, a pill bottle, epoxy, glue and a lightweight plastic tablecloth.

“What I like about STREAM is that it puts a lot of our skills into one class,” said Pritchard, who was responsible for tracking and calculating the height of the rocket’s flight using a protractor and straw. “Each of us has different strengths, and we work together to do our projects, and the more involved the projects are, the more fun we have with them. The rocket building was a lot of fun.”

For some, building the rocket probably was a lot of fun. Watching what happened with it, at times, probably wasn’t. After Dwyer’s group watched its rocket fly and crash, several more behind them watched similar “catastrophes” – two rockets’ parachutes popped and disconnected from their rockets, sending them crashing to the ground while the parachute floated elsewhere, while another’s parachute didn’t eject at all, and yet another didn’t even fire off the launch pad.

But then came sixth-grader Malia Fritz’s group, consisting of seventh-grader Lily Clement and eighth-graders Raechel Rieck and Lauren Scott. Their rocket fired up several hundred feet, began its descent, and a moment later its parachute popped and unfurled, allowing the rocket to easily drift downward to the ground about 60 yards from the launch pad. Fritz, the self-proclaimed “pyro” of the group, happily ran to retrieve it.

“At first, I was, like, ‘Oh, no, the parachute’s not going to open.’ But it did and everything worked great,” Fritz said. “The design wasn’t great, but the rocket worked as planned, so we’re really happy. It smells like burnt popcorn, but I’m going to take it home and put it on a shelf somewhere.”

A bunch more rockets successfully launched and landed – one on top of the parish center roof – while one got caught in a nearby pine and was lost. Nonetheless, Panagis lauded the students’ efforts.

“We’ve always done projects in our science classes, but these are different in the sense that they really bring out the engineering aspect for the students,” she said. “The projects we do in STREAM take them deeper and expand their mental horizons. These types of projects prepare them not only to look at the world and see problems, but opens up their minds on how to come up with something to fix them.”

— David Biggy

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