The NASA-sponsored Summer of Innovation workshop held by the North Louisiana Community Enhancement Corporation cumulated with a rocket launch Wednesday.
The camp for young scholars was a tremendous success," NLCEC founder and president, Payne Montgomery said. The dual purpose of the Summer of Innovation workshops, which was funded by NASA's 2013 Summer of Innovation mini-award, was to upgrade NLCEC staff and tutor's technology skills to meet the demands of the upcoming school year’s after school tutoring program as well as introduce children to NASA Summer of Innovation Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) themes. “We wanted the students to know where they stand educationally as compared to students in other countries and wanted our staff of mentors and tutors to fully understand the challenge that America faces with the decline of the number of our children entering STEM disciplines," Montgomery said. "To be clear, the education challenge that we face today is almost identical to the technology challenge that we faced when we found ourselves behind the former Soviet Union after the lunch of the Russian Sputnik satellite in 1957 which sparked the space race.” All program participants were provided introductory lessons in Rocketry and Robotics, Forces and Motion, Thrust and Air Pressure with focus on Newton’s Laws of Motion. The lessons connected a series of activities to examine thrust and how Newton’s First, Second and Third Law applied to rockets and other bodies propelled by air pressure. Program participants then investigated Newton’s Third Law of Motion using thrust produced by balloon powered rockets and later, model rockets propelled by solid fuel propellants. Special consideration was given to help enable the young scholars to understand principles relating the relationships of center of gravity and center of pressure which affects the stability and flight characteristics of an airplane or a rocket. Demonstrations and videos explained how several stages of a rocket can operate in steps to propel a rocket payload. Principals of inert mass, payload and propellant were discussed as well as efficiency of design of rockets. Hands on activities explored the action-reaction principle by constructing model rockets to later fly on the third day of camp. The reward of sitting through classes filled with videos and classroom styled project based exercises was the chance to play educational computer games and fly model rockets Wednesday. The group of young rocket scientist was divided into four teams. One team practiced air safety by checking the Bastrop Airport Communications CTAF and UNICOM frequencies for local air traffic. A second team was responsible for following the safety code for Model Rocketry Safety Code of the National Association of Rocketry and the Model Rocket Manufacturers Association. This team checked surface winds, density altitude as well as winds aloft using the Bastrop airport’s WX AWOS airport weather station to predict the direction the model NASA rockets would follow. A third team was in charge of loading and firing the rockets. Two other teams were responsible for measuring the height that the rockets traveled using right triangle trigonometry. NLCEC selected Sage Group America to provide instructional leadership for the three day STEM camp. Sage Group America most recently provided STEM instruction for the LA GEAR UP STEM Summer Transition Program at LSU this summer. “Rocketry is an excellent means of teaching the scientific concepts of aerodynamics and Newton’s Laws of Motion. It integrates well with math in calculating formulas, problem solving and determining altitude and speed," Henry Cotton, Sage Group founder said. "In constructing a model rocket, the student had to follow directions, read and follow diagrams and use careful craftsmanship, these are all key elements of project based learning.” The NLCEC NASA Summer of Innovation group has already used computer software to design a two- dimensional robot arm. Within the next several weeks, the group will continue to fashion a fully working three dimension robot arm using computer aided design programs. The program will continue in the coming weeks to finish up with a final Saturday session on Robotics and more rocket launches. Participating in the rocketry and robotics training were mentors Naamon Johnson, Joe Moore, William Edwards, Michael Sutton, Henry Cotton and Minister Payne Montgomery. Students participating were Devin Brownfield, Kewlic Brownfield, Chris Armstrong, Serraj Girtman, Michael Smith, Joshua Sutton, Jazlin Ward, Kamari Ward and Ja'Kyren Montgomery. For more information visit the NLCEC center at 105 Kammell St.