Kids from a district-wide Gifted and Talented Education summer program put their science skills to the test with air-pressure-propelled bottle rockets on Thursday.
The program was designed as a “Mission to Mars,” where students had to come up with plans and design a rocket that could take a crew of astronauts to Mars.
As part of the assignment, students had to role-play pitching their designs to NASA, which could include a commercial or documentary about their work.
Kim Tredick, assistant superintendent for the Castaic Union School District, said all aspects of the project were designed by the students and that it was meant to teach basic propulsion, trial and error, perseverance, and teamwork.
“So particularly gifted kids, they often struggle taking risks and making mistakes and this week is all about trial and error,” said Tredick. “So it’s really a good opportunity for them to experiment, hypothesize, and then make adjustments in their designs to see what works and what doesn’t.”
Tredick said the project teaches students compromise and collaboration, which can be challenging for kids but nonetheless important.
“I think all kids need opportunities to just explore and learn,” said Tredick. “So this is a great opportunity for them to do just that.”
Even though in reality the only physical thing students were engineering were their bottle rockets, students had to imagine and design detailed aspects of what astronauts would need on a real mission to Mars — from sleeping quarters and space suits to what societal and physical needs humans would have on a hypothetical Mars colony.
The rockets themselves weren’t just the ordinary ones you make at home either. They had specially designed fins, a parachute, and even stages.
Chloe Woolley and Phebe Woolley, whose father works for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said they took some notes from their dad and incorporated them into their project.
“I actually really enjoyed building the rocket and designing it because it’s just using your own imagination,” said Phebe. “Instead of guided learning, like, ‘Oh, you’re going to [do] this, this, and this’.”
“One of my favorite things to do is just build something but not being told how to do it,” said Bella Lange, who was in a group with Phebe and Chloe. “Having directions just so you can, like, use your own mind to create. I feel school will be a lot more engaging [with] things like that.”