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Model rocketeers take off

Excitement was on overload as Tehachapi 4th and 5th graders were treated to a rewarding rocket launch day May 30 at the Tehachapi Municipal Airport. Their model rockets were launched amid loud cheers.

Sponsored by Arts Science & Technology (AST), the Intermediate Space Challenge (ISC) is a program that provides model rocket kits for the students to build in their classrooms. This helps teach kids about the science involved in rocketry. Kids get the experience of building a small rocket to be propelled by a 3-stage solid fuel engine which is remotely triggered. Launch day was the culmination of this year's program.

Several hundred kids, comprising 26 teams from five area public and private schools, gathered together to participate in the festivities. Judges awarded team prizes in several categories to both 4th and 5th grade classes from Cummings Valley School (CVS), Golden Hills School (GHS), Tompkins Elementary School (TES), Heritage Oaks School (HOS) and Valley Oaks Charter School (VOCS).

The list of winners is as follows, provided by Laura Lundberg, Director AST, ISC Coordinator, and Nick Altieri, ISC Coordinator:

Most Spirited:

4th: CVS Mrs. Robson's Flaming Bananas

5th :CVS Mrs. Sherwood's Stranger Things

Best Rocket Design:

4th: GHS Mrs. Crum's Rocketeers

5th: GHS Mrs. Quiroga's Flying Purple People Eaters

Best Banner:

4th: HOS Mrs. Tomlin's Soaring 4th and CVS Mr. Thiesse's Bright Knights – an unprecedented tie! Both were outstanding!

5th: GHS Mrs. Quiroga's Flying Purple People Eaters

Best Essay:

4th: GHS Mrs. Shryock's Shooting Stars

5th: GHS Mrs. Quiroga's Flying Purple People Eaters

Best Rocket Launch:

4th: TES Mr. Grimes' Space Campers

5th: TES Mr. Devine's Moon Destroyers

Best Overall:

4th: HOS Mrs. Tomlin's Soaring 4th

5th: GHS Mrs. Quiroga's Flying Purple People Eaters

Overall Champion:

GHS Mrs. Quiroga's Flying Purple People Eaters

Lundberg and Altieri also provided this statement about Launch Day:

"The quality of essays and banners were outstanding this year and Arts Science & Technology loved seeing the kids have fun while learning about and seeing hands-on science! We truly appreciate the hard work the kids put in and the dedication of the teachers to get all elements of the competition completed... in our book, everyone was a winner!"

Crucial to the success of the program and the event, according to Lundberg and Altieri, were the "nearly 30 Tehachapi High Engineering and Manufacturing Academy (THEMA) students who mentored the elementary school students, helped tremendously with fundraising for the event and helped at the event in many different ways from traffic direction, to recording data, to distributing water, to measuring height of rocket launches. They are an integral part of the program and we could not put the event on without their help. Mr. [Steve] Hansen, the THEMA director, is a wonderful supporter of AST and ISC."

In addition to the students and teachers, numerous dignitaries were in attendance, including: Greg Garrett, Tehachapi City Manager; Jackie Wood Tehachapi Unified School District (TUSD); Jeff Kermode TUSD; Aaron Falk, Rep. Kevin McCarthy's office; Mia Cifuentes, Assemblyman Vince Fong's office; Pam Rose, Senator Jean Fuller's office; Lilly Agbalog, Senator Jean Fuller's office; Michelle Vance, Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Park Department; and Bev Thompson, former Principal Tehachapi High School.

Kurtis Jackson, IT advisor and grandson of the previous IT advisor for AST, was in charge of setting up the rockets on their launch pads, triggering the rocket launches, and ensuring the safety of those in the immediate launch perimeter.

Thane Lundberg headed up the altitude tracking team composed of THEMA students, using measuring equipment and trigonometric calculations to record the maximum height reached by each rocket. The highest rocket reached an altitude of over 600 feet. Each rocket, after leaving a spectacular smoke trail and reaching its apogee (maximum height), then triggered a small charge that released a parachute which provided a soft landing. The rockets were retrieved by volunteers in a high-tech police-equipped Jeep.

Thane Lundberg is ready to begin a high-school-age rocket club, also sponsored by AST and funded by The Foundation for the Carolinas, which will eventually build 16-foot liquid-fuel amateur-class rockets capable of reaching altitudes of up to 30,000 feet while carrying a 4 lb. payload. The funds and rocket kits are ready to go – the only thing still needed to move forward with this club is sufficient adult participation. If you are an adult interested in participating in this amazing opportunity for high-schoolers (including public, private and home-schooled high-school-age students), contact Thane Lundberg at [email protected].