Englewood rocketry club launched

Posted 12/28/09

The sky’s the limit, literally, for the members of the newly formed Englewood Thunder Aerospace Club as they learn to build and fly rockets. “I …

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Englewood rocketry club launched


The sky’s the limit, literally, for the members of the newly formed Englewood Thunder Aerospace Club as they learn to build and fly rockets.

“I had a class that built and flew rockets when I taught junior high school in Arizona,” club founder and Englewood High School teacher Jim Chaput said. “I enjoyed teaching the class and flying the rockets so I thought it would be nice to introduce the program in Englewood. The idea was good but it was on hold until this year when the program was made possible by a creativity grant from the Englewood Education Foundation.”

He said the grant money made it possible to buy very advanced rocket software and the initial equipment to get the club started. In the future, the software will enable students to create original designs for their rockets and use the program to conduct flight simulations to make sure the design will fly properly.

He explained there are two sections of the club. He oversees the high school portion, which is a voluntary program that meets after school the first Monday of each month. The other segment is at Englewood Middle School, where teacher Michael Schalenberger has made the building and flying of model rockets a part of his design technology class.

“I was out of rocketry for quite a few years, so when I planned to start this club, I joined the National Association of Rocketry to get up to speed,” Chaput said. “They directed me to the Web and I was amazed at the abundance of information available about the building and flying rockets.”

He said that while a lot of the information is designed for those involved in model rocketry, there was an astounding amount of information designed to the classroom.

“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has a curriculum on model rocketry available and so does the Air Force Academy,” he said.

The high school program is small initially with three students, Louis Marcy, Mike Shoclay and Dominic Carter. But Chaput said he expects it will gain in popularity once the club begins flying its rockets.

The first step is building the rockets and, during the Dec. 14 club session, Marcy and Shoclay were hard at work. The kit parts were spread around the table as the two students focused on building their first rockets.

“I guess I got interested in rocketry because my grandfather told me about how he built and flew rockets when he was younger,” Marcy said as he worked to assemble the parachute for his rocket.

“When Mr. Chaput announced the club, I checked into it and I found it really interesting. My future plans are to become a pilot and I thought the aerodynamics I learn building and flying the rockets could help me later.”

He said building the rocket is challenging even though all the parts come in a kit. He said the challenge lies in the requirement to be very precise with all measurement because, if the measurements are off, the portions of the rockets won’t be positioned correctly.

“I feel my rocket is going together pretty well,” Marcy said. “I can’t wait to see it fly.”

Shoclay said he is in the club because he liked to build things.

“I’ve never built or flown a model plane but I though it would be fun to build and fly a rocket,” he said as he trimmed the rocket body to fit the nose cone. “I’ve seen rockets flown. This one is pretty simple and I hope I can stay with the club so I can help build and fly bigger and better rockets.”

Chaput shared his interest in model rockets with other EHS teachers and Bill Gilmore, who teaches science, made a section on rocket flight part of his class.

His earth science class was divided into teams. Each team was assigned to write a hypothesis for the rocket, then prepare and launch the rocket, complete with a payload.

Class lessons included using computer simulations to determine the center of pressure and the center of gravity on the rocket to assure stable flight. Each team got to launch the rocket and Chaput said, as far as he knows, these were the first rocket launches ever on the EHS campus.

After the Christmas break, the club will resume. Chaput said the initial rockets will be simple models but, as the students gain experience, plans are to move up to using a cluster of rocket motors and to launch two and even three-stage rockets. There is even the possibility of including on-board cameras to record the rocket flights, he said.

The high school program has 20 slots. For information on the club and the program, contact Chaput through the high school office or call him at (303) 806-2305.


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