Jubilee Vanderburg watched
her model rocket shoot high in the sky over Montana State University
on Tuesday, to the cheers of her friends at a NASA space camp for
American Indian teens.
"I was kind of surprised
it went that far, that high," said Vanderburg, 14, a Ronan
High School freshman.
About 50 students attending
the two-week camp got to launch rockets from the MSU athletic practice
fields on South Seventh Avenue.
Each time a rocket was ready
to launch, John Getty, an MSU adjunct instructor, would do a count
down on his bullhorn: "T minus 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!"
Most of the foot-long rockets
would then zoom up, some so high they got momentarily lost in the
rain clouds overhead.
A few rockets were duds.
Ashleigh Wilbert, 15, shook
her head sheepishly after hers broke up and fizzled to the ground.
"It probably was too
heavy," she said.
Nothing like a crashing rocket
to make physics come alive.
This is the first year for
the space camp, which was made possible by a NASA grant to Salish
Kootenai College. Tim Olson, who teaches physics and engineering
there, worked with two MSU assistant professors of physics, Charles
Kankelborg and David McKenzie, to launch the camp.
The NASA program works with
historically black, Hispanic and tribal colleges to promote an interest
in space and science among minority students. The colleges receive
three-year grants of to $275,000.
The 50 teens, many wearing
colorful NASA T-shirts, came from Montana's Mission Valley and schools
on the Flathead Reservation.
"We hope a few will
end up as engineers or scientists," Kankelborg said.
The students spent the first
part of the camp at Blue Bay on Flathead Lake, but Kankelborg didn't
want them launching rockets there.
"I did not want to be
responsible for burning down the forest," he said.
In addition to building black
powder-propelled rockets, the students got a trigonometry lesson
in using right-angle triangles to measure the height of each rockets'
At MSU, they toured physics
and space labs, and met scientists working on real satellites. That
impressed the kids, said Juan Perez, student life director at Salish
The big secret is to get
the students on campus, having fun, staying in dorms, eating campus
food, meeting professors and realizing, "Hey, these guys are
cool," said Tracie McDonald, the tribal college's student support
The camp is cool, said Keith
Michel Jr., 14, from Two Eagle River School, who wants to be a game
"You get to learn about
the sun, sun spots, and meet new friends," he said.
Jessica Buckless, 14, a Salish
tribal member, said she wants to become a doctor.
"This is, like, a really
great opportunity for all Native American students who want to grow
up and do something with science and math," she said.