Rockets fill the sky

Dec. 09, 2012 @ 09:29 PM

To help sponsor the team’s trip to the April rocket competition in Alabama, contact Jeffrey LaCosse at jeffrey.lacosse@dpsnc.net.

It was rocket science, and it was simply fun.
High school students from Durham literally had a field day Sunday afternoon as they launched their self-created rockets toward the heavens from a stretch of open land off South Lowell Road in Bahama.
A team from Jordan High School and a second team of students from Jordan, Durham School of the Arts and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics took turns sending their rockets hundreds of feet into the air.
The Jordan team’s first try fizzled, but they were undeterred. Within minutes, they had their rocket tearing away from the launch pad with a deafening SWOOSH. Instead of going straight up, it took a slight turn and landed on the other side of the field.
“Wow!” one student said. “Where did it go? Oh, there it is!”
The hope was that it would shoot straight up 850 feet instead of 577, according to Jeffrey LaCosse, a Jordan science teacher who mentors the team. But Sunday’s launch was part of the team’s research to determine what was flawed and needed improving.
The other group is part of the Student Launch Initiative Team program, which recently won NASA’s approval to develop a rocket that will be launched with those from 20 high schools and 30 university teams around the United States at the Marshall Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in April.
LaCosse, who also serves as team administrator for the Durham Area Rocketry Team, is thrilled that the group will be at the nationwide event.
Sunday’s launch used half-scale versions of the rockets they’ll use in Huntsville.
Once NASA gives final OK on the design, the Durham team members can build their full-scale rocket that will shoot about 6,000 feet high.
Logan Herrera, a 17-year-old senior at NCSSM and member of the NASA-sponsored team, said he got a rocket for Christmas one year, and has loved them ever since.
“I’ve just stayed with it, going to bigger and better stuff,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to do some high-powered rocketry, and do it in a structured way with NASA.”
Kevin Ostrowski, a 17-year-old senior at Jordan and team leader of DART, said physics has always been his passion. He said creating rockets takes him from the abstract to the concrete.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said.
Andrew Adams, 16, is an 11th-grader at NCSSM who will be at the Alabama rocket launch.
“It’s just fascinating, because here on earth, we have a chance to impact just about everything else,” he said. “Normally, our thinking is limited to earth, but when we launch rockets, it makes us think: ‘What’s out there? How can we expand our horizons?’ And I want to be part of that.”
LaCosse, who teaches physics and math at Jordan, said he’s been drawn to rockets since he was 12. He’s 49 now, and hasn’t lost that loving feeling.
“When the students do their calculations and see that the rocket goes almost as high as they predicted, it’s very fun to watch,” he said. “It’s the first time some of them have ever seen a rocket fly.  And when I see them, I see myself a long time ago when I was a kid.”