Firing off rockets at Kids College requires the whole class to shout the countdown in unison—it is what one does.
“Five, four, three, two….ONE!” The small, hand-made, hand-painted rocket whooshes up from a home-made PVC plastic launch pad, travelling more than a hundred feet in two or three seconds. Everyone squints into the midday sun to see the rocket turn over at the top of its flight curve—the “apogee.” With a faraway “Pop!” the rocket’s nose cone parts from the body and an orange streamer emerges. The rocket flutters back down to the campus ball field. An excited 12-year-old from McCloud, Oklahoma, Chase Hutcheson, darts out to reclaim his prize.
“I’ve never fired off one that you could use again. Usually they have fireworks in them,” Hutcheson exclaims.
Rose State Kids College instructor Magi Whitaker helps Aerospace student Chase Hutcheson ready his hand-made rocket for launch. Kids College, the annual summer learning camp for kids K-12 at Rose State College, experienced increased enrollment this year. Photo by Ken Beachler.
The “Aerospace Flight” class is one of the many science-related classes offered during Rose State College’s Kids College summer learning camp. The camp’s full enrollment is indicative of a strong push by parents, educators and state officials to encourage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning.
One such state official is Grayson Ardies, Program Manager at the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC). With the firing of each rocket, its tail flickering with ambient flame, Ardies is watching the state’s funding light a fire in a kid’s mind.
“We have to educate the next aviation workforce. We’re trying to get their attention here before the internet companies do. We want to get that spark in the back of their brain saying ‘Hey! This is what I want to do!’” Ardies said.
The class this year was made possible in part by a $4,574 grant from the OAC. The class filled to the brim. Next year, OAC hopes to more than double that amount and attract another full section of rocket-hungry students.
“When they’re younger like this, shooting off rockets like this is great, but as they start getting older we’ll start incorporating more STEM-related stuff. We’ll start measuring how high the rocket goes, or what kind of G-Forces are being exerted in that rocket. But right here is where it starts,” Ardies said.
Rose State College’s enrollment in its Kids College program this year is up more than 15 percent, with a large number enrolling in STEM education programming.
In addition to Aerospace Flight, youths took part in such sold-out brainy courses as Algebra 1, Amazon Rainforest, Crazy Chemists, CSI, Junior Astronauts, Solar System, Super Science Kids, and Video Game Design. By the end of camp in July, enrollment topped 1,600 students, who took more than 135 classes.
Ardies calls that a good investment for the state. He pointed to Tinker Air Force Base, across the highway from Rose State College, the state’s largest employer.
“Someday they’ll walk across the street there…or maybe work elsewhere in the defense industry, either in a uniform or in civilian clothing,” Ardies said.
Wed, August 1, 2012
by Ben Fenwick