Blast off at MUIDS: Students Build Their Own Rockets

Launching rockets to the moon was one of humanity’s greatest challenges. MUIDS’ physics and chemistry students got an idea of just how challenging it was.

“A part of our task as teachers is to get students to understand that what happens on a big scale also happens on a small scale,” Mr. Gopinarath Subramanian, one of MUIDS’ physics teachers, explained.

“The other Physics teachers and I showed them an actual satellite launch that took place in India, and helped them understand what it takes to launch a rocket into space.”

To demonstrate their understanding of basic physics and chemistry, MUIDS students spent weeks building their own rockets.

“We gave them the knowledge and skills they needed to build and launch their own rockets,” Sorasaree Tonsiengsom, an MUIDS chemistry teacher, added. “However, they had to figure out for themselves how to design the rocket and how to launch it.”

MUIDS students’ rockets didn’t break out of the earth’s atmosphere; rather, they were more like missiles. Each one had to travel twenty meters and hit a narrow target. The closer students’ rockets would land to the center the more points they would earn.

“It’s a contest, a bit like throwing darts,” Mr. Subramanian explained. “You get the most points for hitting the center of the target, and earn fewer points the farther you are away from the center.”

“We wanted to give the students’ constrictions,” Ms. Tonsiengsom added. “It would force them to think deeply through each problem and design their rockets with precision. Students had to figure out the right ratio of weight to air pressure before launching their rockets; otherwise they would over shoot the target.”

“We taught them the skills they needed to launch these rockets, but we didn’t give them instructions. They had to design their own launch pad.”

“They had two test runs to launch their rockets and learn from their mistakes,” Mr. Subramanian added. “Those test runs allowed them to learn from their mistakes and adjust their designs and calculations.”

Soon enough launch day came.  One after another students took their marks behind the launch pad and launched their rockets. Most of them successfully hit the target, either on the edges, or even at the bull’s eye.

Mr. Subramanian:  “Students did an excellent job on their projects. They did struggle a bit with wind speed and other weather related conditions, but that’s a part of this process. Even Space X has had to delay their satellite launches because of weather conditions.”

The students that could factor in wind speed may find themselves winning the contest. Mr. Subramanian and Ms. Tonsiengsom are currently tallying up the students’ points, and will decide the winners soon.

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