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Rocket challenge launches budding engineers

Posted at 1:48pm Wednesday 17 Jul, 2019

The Wonder Project's Rocket Challenge is complete for Stanmore Bay Primary and Whangaparāoa School, with students at both schools launching their final creations at the end of term 2.

The challenge asks teams of four students to make a plastic-bottle rocket, fill it with water, and use an air launcher provided by the Wonder Project to fire it as high as possible at a 45 degree angle.

Stanmore Bay teacher Robyn Bennett says the challenge successfully engaged their three senior classes who took part.

“We don't do enough engineering and science at primary, which is why our school signed up as many kids as we could within the project's three class limit,” she says.

The Wonder Project is an Engineering NZ initiative that aims to engage Year 5-13 students in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

To help complete the challenge within the allocated eight weeks, each participating school is assigned someone from the engineering workforce.

Construction management lecturer from AUT's Environment and Engineering School, Fei Ying, assisted Whangaparāoa School's two participating groups and says it is positive to see so many girls participate.

“It's very important to break down that barrier at an early age so girls learn that they can do engineering,” she says.

Whangaparāoa School's teacher in charge Debbie Thompson also organised Mechatronic engineer Kieran Fanning from Rocket Lab to speak to the kids. “As someone who works with real-life rockets, the kids were pretty wowed by Kieran,” she says.

While both school's final launches went reasonably well, there were a few mishaps during test runs.

One Whangaparāoa rocket disappeared over a fence into a neighbouring property, and was never found.

Robyn was in the firing line of a Stanmore Bay rocket, which hit her in the face. “There have been plenty of wonky ones,” Robyn says. “But hey, that's all part of the engineering process.”

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