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Rocket science

Photos by Jenny Kirk Education and excitement collided on Friday as Holy Redeemer School eighth-grade students launched water bottle rockets, the culmination of one of their science projects. Eighth graders Bri Simpson, left, and Ava Holmgren react as they launch a water rocket high into the air.

MARSHALL — With most of the Holy Redeemer School students and staff watching, eighth graders took turns launching their water bottle rockets into the air.

Along with big smiles and high-fives from the participants, there was a lot of applause coming from those observing the blast-off process.

“It’s really awesome,” eighth grader Henry Herrick said about the physics project. “It’s the best one that I’ve ever done in this school.

Despite a few mis-fires, Herrick said he thought his team had been doing well overall. While the effort was a lot of fun, he said there were several challenges.

“It was a challenge to build it exactly how you want it because the fins have to be the exact height,” Herrick said. “Otherwise it’ll get in the way. And your rocket has to be tall enough where it can reach the bottom (of the launcher).”

Teams quickly learned that when the smallest rockets struggled to fly more than a few feet. Smaller rockets also contained less water.

“You add water and when the rocket launches, the pressure pushes all the water out and it propels it up,” Herrick said.

Science teacher Sharon Wenker said the students learn a lot throughout the process.

“In science class, students learn about aerospace engineering, engineering design and redesign, Newton’s Laws of Motion, teamwork and problem solving,” Wenker said. “Students research the principles of rocketry. They work in teams to design, construct and launch a rocket made from a 2-liter plastic bottle. Students also determine the volume of water and amount of air pressure needed to launch their rocket.”

Wenker pointed out that the students’ goals are to achieve the greatest trajectory. She also challenged them to shoot their rockets over the goal posts for an added bonus.

“The students compare their accomplishments and challenges with classmates,” she said. “Their goal is to get the greatest distance. And if someone gets it through the goal posts, I will treat the team to Dairy Queen.”

Braxton Seifert was the first student to launch a rocket. He recorded a distance of 46.3 meters as his rocket came to rest extremely close to the goal posts.

“It was so close,” Seifert said. “I just needed the wind.”

The team of Bri Simpson, Nnenna Ongeaghala, Ava Holmgren and Brooke Andries also had one of their rockets reach the goal posts.

“I think it went good,” Simpson said. “I think we all thought the first one was going to go farther, though.”

Overall, Simpson said she thought the project went well.

“We did a lot of work on this, like a lot of research on our rockets,” she said. “We learned about different types of drags for our rockets and that these (six-inches long and three-inches wide with rounded ends) were the best shaped fins. Then we used a previous design for the top part.”

When asked if there was anything that the team could’ve done differently, Simpson said ‘No.”

“We did the best we could,” she said.

While the eighth graders were supposed to have two test launch opportunities, rainy weather kept them indoors and unable to potentially learn from early mistakes.

The team of John Boerboom and John Gruhot perhaps got the biggest reaction from on-lookers as one of their rockets flew high in the air to the right — and over the top of a nearby house.

“It landed on the concrete after going over the house,” Boerboom said. “I think it did that because when I put it on (the launcher), this wing got a little bent. I think that had some impact on (the flight).”

Boerboom said he really enjoyed the entire project.

“I think this is really fun,” he said. “Everybody is in a team. We both built two separate rockets, to see whose would go the farthest.”

According to Boerboom, there was a lot to learn about the process.

“We learned about how to make it so the rocket will go up at a good enough pace and make it as far as it can go,” Boerboom said. “I think the biggest challenge is making it so the wings don’t interfere with it taking off when you put it on the stopper.”

Wenker said the eighth graders are learning about the earth and physics in science class.

“They’re learning about atmosphere right now, but the physics is added just to get their interest,” she said.

Wenker invited all of the Holy Redeemer School students and staff to come out and watch the final launch for her students. She included a little science-related humor along with the notice.

“As long as the weather cooperates, the schedule will not change,” Wenker said. “Conditions that may cause a postponement include: lightning, heavy rain, wind, hurricane, earthquake or tornado.”

While cool, the weather did cooperate as there was a lot of sun and very little wind.

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