By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Schriever Air Force Base’s School Age Program recently caught the attention of the Colorado chapter of 4-H for its work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects.
Specifically, the program’s work with rockets earned it a photo spot on the Colorado State University 4-H (4hstemk12.colostate.edu) website.
“We thought rockets would be a great added program to the SAP,” said Mary Barkley, 50th Force Support Squadron flight chief. “We thought it was really appropriate because we are in space command.”
The photos were submitted to the website by Vanessa Tranel, Colorado 4-H military liaison, to help promote the 4-H military partnership, as well as the 4-H emphasis on STEM projects.
Tranel said the 4-H rocketry program helps youth learn the concepts of flight, design, motion, math and scientific inquiry through the use of hands-on experiments with different types of rockets.
The photos appearing on the website are from the launch of the third stage of the SAP’s rocket program. Youth began the rocket program, one of the SAP’s long-term projects, by building simple rockets made of straws and launching them using the pressure derived from a dropping weight.
“This was a long-term project for the SAP,” said Vicki Rygiel, School Age Program coordinator. “It’s been a long-term project explaining all the science behind (the rockets). We have 4-H curriculum explaining the reaction between baking soda and vinegar and another on how things move.”
The group progressed from simple straw launches to a more advanced propulsion system using PVC tubes, 2-liter plastic bottles and a paper tube. Rygiel brought in a pair of engineers from Lockheed Martin to present the curriculum, titled “Rockets to the Rescue,” which challenged youth to design a rocket capable of carrying a “payload” to a group of storm survivors stranded on an island.
“Basically they had to move a pay load, which was a new vocabulary term for them,” Rygiel said. “They were challenged with the idea that they had to move a payload from one place to another.”
The Lockheed engineers served a dual purpose as they both assisted the youth with creating the rockets, and explained how the knowledge they gain through the rocket program can be applied to a real world career.
“We’re building all of these elements together to help the kids enrich their curriculum at school, enhance their base knowledge and, ultimately, to highlight career opportunities,” Rygiel said. “That’s why we brought in the Lockheed Martin engineers so they could see that there is a job connected to this.”
The photos used on the 4-H website show what happened when water was added to the mix. Youth used a bicycle pump to add air pressure to a 2-liter bottle filled with water. Once maximum pressure was reached, they would pull a rip cord to launch the bottle. The results were impressive, as the bottles traveled as far as 30 feet.
Rygiel said the program took the opportunity to tour the restricted area later that afternoon to provide another example of how the curriculum can lead to future career opportunities.
“A lot of these kids’ parents work in space command and it brings a reality of what their parents do,” she added.
4-H has funded a grant that allowed for the purchase of the rockets that will be used in the final stage of the program. The staged rockets will be built by program youth and have multiple “stages” the rockets will need to complete in order to perform a successful launch and flight. The SAP is waiting for final approval from safety and the base fire department before setting a launch date.
Rygiel said getting the grant allowed for the purchase of 35 staged rockets, which at $15 per rocket, is no small amount.
“In a time of budget restraints, that’s definitely a blessing to have those resources out there,” Barkley said.
The ultimate end goal for the rocket program is to allow SAP youth to enter their rockets into 4-H competition at the Colorado State Fair, Rygiel said. Only the staged rockets can be submitted for competition, and all submissions must include both the rocket and a scientific analysis of what the purpose of the rocket was, as well as, the specific measurements and dimensions of the rocket.
“It’s a goal to show the youth what we’re doing is not just a one-time experience,” Rygiel said. “It can be taken to multiple levels and they could get state or even national attention.”
Tranel added she would love for the kids to be able to participate in both the El Paso County Fair and Colorado State Fair 4-H Rocketry Fly Day competitions.
4-H has a formal partnership with the Air Force, Army, Navy, Guard and Reserves. The goal of the partnership is to provide safe, quality programs for youth on military bases and installations.
“I am very, very fortunate that my job is 100 percent dedicated to the 4-H military partnership,” Tranel said. “My position exists to strengthen our relationship and provide and enhance opportunities for military youth.”
The Schriever SAP is open to children ages 5-12, who have started kindergarten. Children of active duty military, reservists on active duty orders, Department of Defense appropriated and non-appropriated fund employees and contractors working on Schriever are eligible to attend. Before and after school care and daily school bus transportation is available to children attending Ellicott School District 22. Children residing in other districts are eligible for care on scheduled school closures and snow days. Registration information for the SAP’s summer program will be available later this month.
For more information, or to register your child, contact Rygiel at 567-4742.