STEM program reaches new heights

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High-powered sport rockets packed with student payloads soared thousands of feet above the plains of Pueblo as part of a student rocket launch hosted by United Launch Alliance and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

The July 27 event marked the culmination of an educational experience designed to simulate a real-life launch campaign, encouraging students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The launch featured three high-power sport rockets built by interns at ULA, including “Future” — the largest rocket to launch in Colorado. Ball interns created the five largest payloads, and K-12 students from Colorado and Alabama created 12 additional payloads.

Payloads are onboard instruments and experiments that are deployed after launch.

Working on their own time, the students designed, built and tested their respective rockets and payloads under the supervision and guidance of mentors from both companies.

Approximately 60 interns and 30 mentors from ULA as well as 49 interns and 25 mentors from Ball participated this year.

Among the lineup of rockets was the 25-foot-tall “Future,” which carried 14 payloads to an altitude of approximately 9,000 feet above the ground. The “Stars ’N’ Stripes” is a 17-foot rocket and carried two payloads, and the “Atlas IV,” at 10 feet tall, deployed a single payload.

Ball interns designed, built and tested the five largest payloads, including a fully equipped life support system carrying a crew of grasshoppers to a new home in Pueblo; a bio-friendly glitter bomb; a self-guided quad-copter; a wacky, wavy inflatable man; and a solar balloon with a surprise that should wow the audience, among many other sensors and cameras.

Twelve K-12 student teams from five schools in Colorado and Alabama also built payloads. Many incorporated parachutes, cameras and instruments including GPS, accelerometers and Geiger counters, and the student designers will use them to learn more about the environment, the atmosphere, descent velocities and even the best way to recharge AA batteries.

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