We have ignition!
Salamander rocket lifts off. The rocket employed a cluster
motor system that operated flawlessly.
rocket team with their handiwork.
Seven students from Chief Dull Knife College (CDKC), along with
three advisors, stood on the sun-drenched prairie of the Richard
Bong State Recreation Area in Wisconsin and watched their rockets
shoot into the crystal blue sky. Soft white vapor trails tracked
the direction of their launches, and the crowds cheered when parachutes
ejected from each rocket.
The students, members of the CDKC rocket team, competed in the
First Nations Launch, an annual NASA-sponsored competition that
seeks to involve Native American students in engineering, physics,
and other space-related sciences. For the CDKC team, all their hard
work paid off when they won the Climate Change Science Payload portion
of the competition.
CDKC fielded two separate rocket teams this year. The first
participated in the tribal college competition, which required students
to design a science experiment that related to climate change. The
students developed a sensor package that measures carbon monoxide,
carbon dioxide, and ozone gases which are common emissions from
coal-fired power plants. Lame Deer, where CDKC is located, is 23
miles south of Colstrip, one of the largest coal-fired power plants
in the western United States.
We chose this payload because we live so close to a coal-fired
power plant, explains Royalle Chavez, one of four CDKC students
on the tribal college team. Calling themselves the Morning Stars,
the team included Chavez, Abe Salois, George Nightwalker Jr., and
Danielle Freemont. Salois, a former NASA intern, did most of the
programming for the sensors. The launch and parachute ejections
worked perfectlyat least initially. According to Nightwalker,
everything went perfectly until the retrieval team discovered that
the rocket had landed in a lake. Rising to the task, Nightwalker
swam to retrieve the rocket.
For the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)
challenge, students had to design a rocket that used a cluster motor.
The system employs three separate motors: one main motor, which
fires first; and two outboards, which fire separately. Students
on this team called themselves the Salamanders. A NASA official
called their rocket launch beautiful, as the rocket
motors and both parachutes all worked exactly according to plan.
The Salamander team included Jade Threefingers, Abe Salois, Scott
Shoulderblade, and Richard Bearquiver.
This was the first year CDKC students actually competed in the
First Nations Launch, according to advisor Jim Bertin. The
idea behind the program is to give our students first-hand, hands-on
experience with some really exciting science, Bertin explains.
They get to be involved with a project that starts as just
a jumble of parts on a table, and ends with a heart-racing rocket
flight. Its something real, and the students can see the direct
result of what their work accomplished.
The students responded to the launch experience enthusiastically.
This program showed us that we can be so much more than we
ever thought, and all we needed was support, says Jade Threefingers,
who graduates from CDKC this spring. It was an amazing experience.
It made me feel as though the stuff I learned from classes
actually has real-world implications, adds Richard Bearquiver.
Scott Shoulderblade, a freshman at CDKC, joined the team late, but
spent many hours catching up on the information others had accumulated
over the course of the semester. Along with Nightwalker, he will
be the only student who returns to the team next year, because all
the others will have graduated.
Shoulderblade says he wants to share what he has learned with
his family. Already I want to share this stuff with my nephew,
he exclaims. It will make knowing the information that much
better, to be able to teach it to someone else.