Oakton Rocket Team Has Liftoff

Oakton Rocket Team Has Liftoff

Team Legacy, a group of 11 Oakton High School students, journeyed to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. earlier this month to participate in the Student Launch Initiative. Teams presented the rockets they had constructed, including a scientific payload, to NASA employees and then launched them Saturday, May 6, at a sod farm in Manchester, Tenn.

This is the second consecutive year that Oakton was invited to the program.

"Everything went beautifully," said physics teacher Steve Scholla. Eight of the 10 teams present had successful launches, and of those, Oakton's rocket landed closest to the launch site, he said. Three special awards were presented, with one going to Team Legacy for having the best Web site to document their project. The team also received a crystal recognition plaque for participating for two years, which is the most NASA allows.

The students were conducting an experiment testing the effects of microgravity on capillary tube action, for which they installed liquid-filled tubes in the rocket's payload, along with a video camera to record the behavior of the liquid during flight and transmit the footage to a laptop on the ground. Scholla said the data is still being analyzed, but the footage was "well-lit, clear and completely viewable."

During their four-day stay, students also got to learn about the cutting edge of the rocket industry. They toured the Marshall Center and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, as well as Marshall's Propulsion Research Laboratory, where they saw a one-fifth scale solid rocket motor "static tested," said Scholla, describing the 150-foot plume the engine generated. They also heard from astronaut Barry Wilmore about his experiences and from an advanced concepts scientist about the future of rocketry.

"I think this was the trip of a lifetime for a lot of these kids," said Scholla.

— Mike DiCicco