A lesson in aerospace engineering

Chris Michlewicz
Posted

If they were not familiar with the term “aerospace engineering” before, a few dozen elementary school students are surely more aware of the ingenious innovations that come from the growing field.

Students in fourth through sixth grades at Sand Creek Elementary School in Highlands Ranch received a personal lesson from a team of aerospace engineering students from the University of Colorado at Boulder May 13. The college seniors put their creation — an award-winning device that captures troublesome space debris — on display for the students, then encouraged them to design their own space trash grabbers out of a few household items. The students then snagged a ping pong ball suspended in mid-air by a rush of air from a hair dryer.

Ahna Isaak, a former Sand Creek Elementary student and member of an aerospace engineering group called REDCROC, said the team’s invention was selected by the NASA-sponsored Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage — or RASC-AL — committee for a competition in Cocoa Beach, Fla. The competition provides university-level engineering students with an opportunity to design projects based on NASA engineering challenges, as well as offer NASA access to new research and design projects by students.

As part of the competition, the team is asked to speak with students at local schools and possibly get students interested in engineering and STEM programs, said Diane Knoch, secretary to the principal at Sand Creek and mother of REDCROC team member Matt Knoch.

The hands-on science experiment was met with great interest from the students, some of whom have parents in the aerospace industry. Douglas County-based Lockheed Martin is the corporate sponsor for the REDCROC project.

REDCROC includes graduates of Highlands Ranch High School, Mountain Vista High School and Rock Canyon High School. Isaak said it’s fun to come back to her hometown and teach younger students about the marvels of aerospace engineering. Showing off their approach to orbital debris mitigation is also helping to prepare the nine-member team for the NASA-sponsored competition next month.

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