Hi, my name is Jeffrey and I’m a student from Napa Valley College working at Sonoma State University this summer. I applied to work for NASA E/PO at SSU because I am majoring in aerospace engineering and working full-time for NASA is my ultimate goal. The work done by NASA E/PO appealed to me a lot because I was excited to get some hands-on experience in rocketry and ballooning. I also appreciate the purpose of the S4 project, introducing rocketry to students at a younger age, making this hands-on experience more accessible to them by incorporating it into their math and science classes, and other activities the students are already involved in.
Before I started working on the S4 project, I had no prior experience with soldering, and very limited experience in programming. However, it wasn’t long before I was soldering all the components onto multiple flight boards, practically memorizing portions of the Educators Guide, and also familiarizing myself with the structure of each arduino sketch.
During the week of the training, I assisted in helping the teachers learn the same things I was taught about the assembly and data interpretation of the payloads. It was nice being able to answer their questions when they ran into some of the same problems I had. Instructing people in a hands-on activity like this was a first for me, and I really appreciated getting feedback from them. I enjoyed hearing from them about how they plan to incorporate this training into their classrooms. I was also excited for their students who would experience the results of our hard work and have a teacher who is really engaged in the learning material and is as excited to demonstrate the applications of the things they are learning in a fun way.
The rocket launch at the lake bed was definitely the highlight of my experience in the S4 project. While we were there, I had the task of pointing the directional antenna at each rocket as it launched and landed to maintain telemetry as the payloads collected data. Every countdown was exciting and I loved hearing the sound of the motors burning as the rockets took off. The dry heat was intense, but I thought it was well worth it as I was able to watch many other rockets launch. Some of them took off fast and loud, while a few others were completely destroyed, so I got to see a little bit of everything.
Participating in the S4 project made this summer one of the most enjoyable and eventful summers I’ve had in a while, not only for introducing me to high-power rocketry, but also for the opportunity to help educators inspire their students to develop a passion for things like physics, programming, rocketry, etc. in some cool ways other than by just shoving a textbook in their faces. I look forward to hearing about how creative the students can get with their experiments and I hope more schools and other learning institutions implement similar projects into their curriculum.