Trinity alum launches rockets at alma mater

Trinity Classical Academy students and faculty watch as alumnus Gus Castillo launches a rocket at the school on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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One of Trinity’s own returned to the school Wednesday to teach students about engineering, help them build their own rockets and launch two rockets nearly 1,000 feet into the air.

Gus Castillo, who graduated from Trinity Classical Academy in 2013, visited the school with his fellow team members from the Loyola Marymount University (LMU) Rocket Team.

The 13-member LMU Rocket Team is one of 60 universities, and one of seven rookie teams, competing in the NASA University Student Launch Initiative this April at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

“We’re taking our 10-foot rocket and we have to hit one mile high and we’re definitely confident we can do it,” Castillo said.  “We’re one of seven rookie teams, which means it’s the first year we’ve competed, but we’ve done a really great job.”

As part of their involvement with the NASA Student Launch, the team must complete a student outreach component of the project.  Castillo said the first place he thought of was Trinity.

“It was the first school I thought of and really wanted to give back,” said Castillo, a senior mechanical engineering major at LMU and team leader of the LMU Rocket Team.  “This is where I got my love of math and science.  I really wanted to come back and share my experience in university.”

Trinity alumnus Gus Castillo, class of 2013, checks out parts of a rocket that the AP physics class is working to build ahead of a rocket launch demonstration on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

During his Trinity visit, Castillo and fellow team member Josh Burger shared information about rocket uses and rocket components at an assembly for the school’s fifth through twelfth grade students.

Burger detailed how rockets are used to deploy satellites, give supplies to scientists on the International Space Station and research how to colonize Mars.

“We design rockets and put the satellites into the nose cave of the rockets and launch them out and put them directly out into the orbit we want them to,” he said.

Castillo shared information about the three types of rockets—solid, liquid and hybrid—and the different elements of rocket design.

Then, students had a chance to design and build their own solid rockets.

Working in groups of five, the students constructed their own rockets complete with a nose cave, body tube, fins, motor mount and parachute.

“It’s cool,” senior Leslie Kim said.  “I wish I could have tried it earlier in school.”

AP physics students at Trinity Classical Academy work together to build a rocket, a project assigned to them by alumnus Gus Castillo on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Trinity AP Physics teacher Evan Freeman said he was excited for his students to see the practical applications of the science and mathematics they learned in his class.

“Physics is a great class, but it’s a very theoretical class,” he said.  “I think it’s really good to see, hands-on this is what you can do with your science, here’s what you can go on to achieve.”

Castillo, who attributes his career as an engineer to his education at Trinity, said it makes his day when he sees students watch the rockets launch into the air.

“It’s always really exciting to see the look on their faces when they watch the rocket go up,” he said.  “I remember my first rocket that I saw go up.  I was so stoked.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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