Less than two days ago, SpaceX was forced to cancel its Falcon 9 launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
However, 2,500 miles west, 48 hours later, the students and staff of Santa Clarita Elementary school defied the rain to launch at least a few student-made bottle rockets.
A tradition for over two decades, the annual bottle rocket launch at the elementary school involves 11- and 12-year-olds from the sixth-grade classes applying what they’ve learned about the physical sciences and aerodynamics to launch their homemade rockets.
With about 50 sixth-graders working in pairs, 25 rockets were produced, with each one having its own unique design. From submarines to patriotic themes to a solid layer of pure glitter, no two were the same.
Camdyn Jennerson, 11, had designed her rocket with feathery boas and blue glitter. In the center of the bottle was a Saugus Strong sticker that she had made.
Nick Miller, 12, and his rocket creating partner, Hunter King, 12, said they did not care as much about the performance of the rocket, but rather the science they learned in order to create it.
“I learned basically how to design a bottle rocket, and how to have the best-performing bottle rocket,” said King.
“Our bottle rocket looks more like a kindergartener made it, but we made it how we wanted to so we could just have some fun with it,” said Miller. “But I had a lot of fun with Hunter.”
“Yeah, it was a lot of fun,” King replied.
Paula Ver Steeg, a Santa Clarita Elementary sixth-grade teacher who’s been helping lead the experiments and accompanying STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons for the bottle rocket launches, said the importance of coming out to the field year after year is that she wants to more actively engage students with the subjects they’re learning about in the classroom.
“It’s the same old, same old with a book,” said Steeg. “But when you see it, experience it, talk about it, get excited about it … that’s what you remember.”
It’s also designed, Ver Steeg said, to be a goal for the younger kids at the school, who are all invited out to watch the big kids and their sixth-grade “buddies” participate in an experiment and idolize their learning.
“I remember in first grade watching it and (thinking), ‘It would just be so cool,’” said Roman St. Amand, 11, who said he now one day wants to be a chemist. “A lot of schools don’t do this, so it’s really special for our school.”
Although the weather challenged the launches, the sixth-graders were able to get close to half of their rockets into the air before the rain forced them to call it quits. Santa Clarita Elementary staff said they would be finishing off the rest of the rocket launches after winter break.