High schoolers get lessons in rocket science
Students work with physicist to develop hybrid-fuel rocket
Published: Sunday, July 23, 2006
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 17:02
Six students from the Harlem Children Society along with a UCF physicist are working on a hybrid fueled rocket engine.
Louise Shackelford, Folasade Akeloko, Christian Garcia, Kujtime Muzhaku, Taquazha Fair and Jackie Cortes are building a scale model of the rocket at the Florida Space Institute along with Associate Professor John Brandenburg. These students along with others from HCS are participating in a summer internship program.
The HCS is dedicated to promoting science education programs for youth living in under-resourced and under-served communities and school districts.
The best, brightest and most motivated young high school students from these communities are chosen for a highly selective summer and year-round hands-on research program. The students perform advanced research with nationally and internationally acclaimed scientists, doctors and engineers in leading institutions and organizations of higher learning, according to the HCS Web site.
Brandenburg is a visiting professor researcher at Florida Space Institute, having come from The Aerospace Corporation.
The project uses a "new type of rocket system," Garcia said. There are two types of rocket fuels, solid and liquid. Their system will use a combination of the two.
The fuel, a gelatin propellant, is a combination of solid alcohol and nitrous oxide.
"Those two types of fuels put together is a new thing," Shackelford said.
The students were assigned different jobs for the project. Akeloko is researching the chemical aspect of the project. Shackelford is researching the basics of hydro rockets and the others will be working on the equations for the project.
The rocket will hopefully be launched in a parking lot within the next few weeks, Akeloko said.
On Friday, the students visited and toured UCF's campus along with the Institute for Stimulation and Training and the university's on-campus labs. The tour was arranged by UCF's Minority Engineering and Computer Science Programs Office.
Sponsors of the students' trip are the UCF Women's Research Center, Burnett Honors College, the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Sigma Xi, a national scientific research society.
Leslie Sue Lieberman, director of the Women's Studies program, hosted the students. This was the university's first summer participating.
"It's the first year [that Sat Bhattacharya] decided to have us venture in other states and it's been interesting," Akeloko said.
Bhattacharya is president and CEO of HCS. He is a research scientist at the internationally acclaimed Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Akeloko, 19, is a sophomore at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She has been a part of HCS for three years. She said HCS has helped kids experience the arts and sciences which they otherwise might not have had the chance to and has shown them that they can reach their goals.
Akeloko is interested in mechanical engineering.
"My interest in the sciences started in elementary school," she said. "I was first interested in drawing and then I became interested in cars. I needed a major that would incorporate drawing and machines so I chose mechanical engineering.
"One thing that peaked my interest [in the tour] was the virtual reality experiments. It's interesting to see where we are headed in the next few years and I would like to be a part of it. I know that it will be a huge movement when it happens."
Garcia, 17, attends school at Brooklyn Technical High School. It's his first year being a part of HCS.
"I am interested in a lot of sciences. However, I am not sure what I want to study," he said.
He said visiting UCF opened his eyes to possibilities.
"[The tour] put the university on my No. 1 list. If I got accepted with a scholarship, I would jump on the opportunity to attend UCF," Garcia said.
Shackelford, 21, is a junior at Steven's Institute of technology. His major is chemistry. He has been with HCS for almost four years.
"I have always been more of a math and science type of person," he said. "I really enjoyed the virtual reality simulation. That was really interesting."
Muzhaku, 17, has been part of HCS for two years. She is a student at Manhattan/Hunter Science High School and is interested in astrophysics.
Fair, 15, is a junior at Frederick Douglass High School.
Cortes, 16, wants to become a medical examiner.
The students are being housed for free in Cocoa Beach.