DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — One of the lessons Marble Falls High School aeroscience/physics teacher Randy Guffey has learned over the years is sometimes he, as the educator, has to remove himself from the equation for the students’ benefit.
“Students, if you give then a project or problem, they’ll accept the challenge and try to solve it,” he said. “It’s something they want to do.”
Guffey regularly witnesses this as a high school teacher, but it’s in his aeroscience classes where students put this lesson into practice almost on a daily basis. Since 2008, the high school’s aeroscience program has grown from about 25 students to more than 100, with each teen aiming for the sky above.
Recently, Guffey and six Aeroscience II students — Lane Bingham, Austin Fryar, Colten Hagood, Jared Stowell, Zachary Taylor and Michah Wooten — traveled to the NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. While the students took in some of NASA’s sights, they were there for a bigger purpose.
The students consulted with NASA engineers (yep, rocket scientists) about a flight profile the youth created for their rocket project. The students are currently designing, and then building, a rocket they will launch May 15. The goal is for the craft to accelerate to a transonic speed, or slightly faster than the speed of sound.
“We were pretty nervous at first, but it was cool how down to earth the NASA flight engineers were with us,” Hagood said. “They said we had a good flight profile and helped us make just a few corrections.”
Guffey hung back and let the youth and NASA engineers work together.
“It’s exciting to hear the students and the NASA engineers speaking the same language,” Guffey said. “Of course, the NASA engineers have a larger vocabulary, but they share the same basic language.”
And that was probably one of the goals when Guffey and Marble Falls High School created the aeroscience program: get students excited and interested in engineering, science and math. Guffey pointed out the United States is in need of more engineers and scientists. One of the big educational pushes in recent years is for more STEM (science, technology,engineering and math) programs at the elementary through secondary levels.
Aeroscience not only falls into that classification but gives students a chance the numbers and theories they study into action.
“I think classes such as this helps out a lot when it comes to getting students interested in engineering,” Guffey said. “I think rockets, of course, are exciting to most students.”
And Marble Falls High School aeroscience students don’t just talk rockets, they build them.
Students study rocketry and the science associated with the craft and also design and build them. They start with smaller rockets (typically the size of a kit-bought model) before tackling larger ones, including a rocket that could fly 100,000 feet above the New Mexico desert.
Between those two levels, the Aeroscience II students design and build a rocket capable of carrying a one-pound payload a mile above the surface and another aimed at transonic flight.
This year’s Aeroscience II class is working on five rockets they plan to launch May 15 in Willow City as part of the SystemsGo Aeroscience program. The students are designing and building three rockets for the one-pound, one-mile flight attempt and two for the transonic attempt.
All of the designing and building rests in the students’ hands. Guffey is there for guidance, but the youth handle the bulk of the work from initial design to construction. Guffey pointed out the students even handle budgeting the project and ordering parts.
Along the way, the students learn valuable lessons not just engineering and physics.
“Even if they don’t (go into engineering), they learn valuable skills such as problem solving and critical thinking,” Guffey said. “We definitely need more problem-solving people.”
Go to www.mfisd.ss3.sharpschool.com or email Guffey at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the program or to support it.
Embry-Riddle offering scholarships for SystemsGo students
MARBLE FALLS — While Marble Falls High School aeroscience students can learn the intricacies of rocket flight, they also can earn scholarships as well.
Recently, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with campuses in Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla., announced the creation of a SystemsGo Scholarship valued at up to $5,000 per year.
The purpose of the Embry-Riddle SystemsGo Scholarship, according to David Hernandez of the Prescott campus, is to recognize high school students who have displayed significant achievements in education and leadership through their involvement on a SystemsGo team.
The SystemsGo Aeroscience program started at Fredericksburg High School in 1996 under the direction of Brett Williams. In 2007, Williams invited teachers from five schools to join the program. Marble Falls High School teacher Randy Guffey joined the following year and began teaching aeroscience classes with the goal of launching rockets at the annual SystemsGo launch in May.
Since 2007, more than 50 high school across the country have joined SystemsGo. NASA has endorsed the program, and The Space Foundation bas even certified it.
U.S. News and World Report has ranked Embry-Riddle the No. 1 aeroscience engineering program for 14 consecutive years. The university produces one out of every six aeroscience engineers in the industry, and its alumni include six U.S. astronauts and the current director of NASA Mission Control.
Applications must be received no later than March 15 of the student’s senior year. Contact Hernandez at (800) 888-3728 or email@example.com for more information.