Students become rocket scientists at NASA facility in Virginia

June 24, 2013 •

A Colorado student space research consortium led by the University of Colorado Boulder teamed up with a Virginia space consortium led by the University of Virginia this week to help aspiring rocket scientists from around the country learn how to design, build and fly payloads.

The program allowed more than 120 students and educators from around the country to delve into the world of rocket science June 15-21 during Rocket Week at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. All participants -- including 10 CU-Boulder students -- were present for a sounding rocket launch carrying various experiments developed by students that successfully lifted off June 20 at 5:30 a.m. EDT.

Activities during the week included a “RockOn!” workshop for 50 university and community college-level participants led by Chris Koehler, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, or COSGC. RockOn! introduces participants to building small experiments that can be launched on suborbital sounding rockets and supports a national program known as STEM that uses classes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to improve the nation’s competitiveness in technology.

“Working with NASA, we have developed a step approach to expand the skills needed for students to enter careers in STEM,” said Koehler of CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences department. “RockOn! is the first step, followed by RockSat-C and then RockSat-X. Each step is technically more challenging than the previous one, allowing the students to expand the skills needed to support the aerospace industry.”

The RockOn! participants built standardized experiments that were launched Thursday on a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket. The 35-foot-tall rocket flew to an altitude of about 75 miles. After launch and payload recovery, the participants began conducting preliminary data analysis and discussing their results.

Read the full news release.