Students, engineers team for Straw Rocket Challenge (video)
CMSD NEWS BUREAU
Through a grant from the Arconic Foundation and a partnership with SAE International, about 800 CMSD students participated in the two-week Straw Rocket Challenge STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program.
The top 150 students faced off in a series of culminating challenges last week at CMSD's East Professional Center. They previously competed in internal competitions at Riverside, Anton Grdina, Sunbeam, Dike, McKinley and Benjamin Franklin schools and Newton D. Baker School of the Arts.
First, the students broke into teams of four to assemble their rockets using plastic drinking straws, modeling clay, tape, string and other tools. Next, they adjusted their team’s rocket to their preferred specifications, based on the engineering lessons they learned in the past two weeks.
Then it was time for the two competitions: distance (flying the rocket at least five meters) and accuracy (landing the rocket within ½ meter of a target). Students blew on the straws to launch them toward the marked targets. The McKinley students won in both contests.
Matthew Brest, an engineering manager at Arconic, was there to help, along with about a dozen other engineers. Brest said working face-to-face with engineers is a unique and invaluable learning experience for students.
“For these students to be able to meet some engineers and learn about what we do is a really great thing,” he said. “Our volunteers use their engineering knowledge to put some perspective on the activities they’re doing and interact with students to talk about the kinds of things real engineers do.”
Arconic and SAE International have been bringing this STEM experience to CMSD for 10 years, Brest said.
“We do a lot of talk about the theoretical, so this was a great opportunity for the kids to do instead of just read,” said Riverside School teacher Anna Brier.
One of the engineers brought photos of real rockets to help students see how engineers use what the students are learning now in real-life situations, Brier said.
“It inspired them to be more creative and think outside the box,” she said.