Science on the Move

Ian Rochon of Chester aims a paper rocket built as part of a Science on the Move activity.

CLEMSON UNIVERSITY/SCOTT MILLER

CLEMSON — South Carolina teens are building rockets to launch themselves – and their peers – to potential careers in science.

They also build cars and design robots.

That’s a typical day at Science on the Move, a mobile education initiative of Clemson Extension’s 4-H program. Science on the Move lets students in kindergarten through high school experience the joys – and opportunities – of STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Science on the Move travels the Palmetto State with two trailers filled with educational activity kits, like the materials needed to make rockets and rocket-launchers used at their November meeting . Participating students get hands-on training in a variety of disciplines, including energy, environmental science, plant and animal science, health, geospatial science, and robotics and engineering.

“This program coaches students to become the prepared workforce that South Carolina needs to interest new businesses and encourage economic growth,” said Katie Rishebarger, coordinator of Clemson’s Science on the Move program.

Starting in ninth grade, students can apply to join the “Youth Science Team,” where they learn leadership, and advanced science concepts and how to teach science to their peers. The team has more than 20 members throughout the state and meets monthly.

The Youth Science Team met at the Clemson Extension office in Chester Nov. 24 to learn how to build air-powered paper rockets and launching mechanisms made of pipe and empty two-liter soda bottles. A team member who could not attend patched into the meeting via Skype.

In the “Rockets to the Rescue” activity, students designed and built a rocket that must travel a certain distance and land on a model island carrying a payload of rescue supplies. The rocket, made of rolled paper with a plug on the top, slips onto a tube connected to an empty two-liter bottle. Students used a protractor to set the angle of the launch, then jumped on the bottle to shoot air into the rocket, launching it into the air.

“I love the science,” shouted team member James Commodore, after his rocked shot across the room.

On the first attempt, the rocket traveled much too far, so students devised a plan to reduce the air pressure. They also changed the angle of the launching mechanism.

On the next attempt, the rocket swirled uncontrollably in flight, so the students installed fins to control drag and steer the rocket. The students also had to design the payload and craft the paper rocket to be durable enough to withstand a landing 30-feet away (coating the paper with wood glue added strength).

Now, the Youth Science Team will travel the state with Science on the Move, teaching their peers how to make the rockets. Science on the Move visits community events and schools on request. Workshops also are held to train teachers, parents and volunteers how to use the technology and equipment offered by the program.

The next stop for Science on the Move is at the Charleston STEM Festival Feb. 8.

Science on the Move launched last year and is funded with community donations, grants and corporate sponsorships.

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