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NCSU High-Powered Rocketry Team Visits East Chapel Hill High

NCSU rocket launchers at East The weather could not have been better for launching rockets on Friday, October 11 at the East Chapel Hill High School (ECHHS) softball field, and how much more engaging instruction can you find, in an Aerospace Engineering class? Under bright blue skies, small groups of students took turns launching their small rockets amidst plumes of smoke. 

Before the launches, they heard a presentation from four North Carolina State University (NCSU) High-Powered Rocketry Team (HPRT) members. The HPRT is comprised of 60 engineering students who spend countless hours building and launching eight to 12-foot rockets that can travel 8,000 feet into the sky.

Both ECHHS and Carrboro High School offer Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering courses as one of the popular Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways. PLTW is a national educational nonprofit that develops and supports STEM curricula, and its high school engineering track provides numerous opportunities for students to apply what they learn, build strong problem-solving skills and find unique solutions.

The PTLW Aerospace Engineering syllabus includes glider aerodynamics and propeller principles, but students don’t learn about propulsion and rocket engine design until after winter break. Their Aerospace Engineering instructor, Bill Vincent, said, “The student response to the High-Powered Rocketry Team visit was more than enthusiastic. We will not start our unit on Rocketry and Space Propulsion for another couple of months but the students are eager to get to it. As a part of that unit, each of our students will design, build, and test their own rocket's performance. We hope to then launch our rockets in early spring. This experience gave our students a glimpse of what they can expect when we start that activity.”

The HPRT members from NCSU brought in an eight foot rocket to use in the classroom instruction, prior to the small rocket launches outside. They pointed out each element of the rocket and talked extensively about their experiences in various launches, mostly in isolated fields in eastern North Carolina. They described the specific roles that team members assume for a launch: parachute packers, launch pad team and rocket recovery. (Those rockets always need to be found and retrieved!) For the uninitiated, the words and phrases like avionics bay, stability margin and carbon fiber were intriguing.

Vincent said, “The HPRT presentation was well aligned with our curriculum, and they offered to come back while we are in the design and build phase our rocket unit.” Stay tuned for Spring Rocket Launch!

aerospace students at East