Rocketry for the Neanderthal
(Written by Student: Michael Kruse)
This rocket lab has been conducted by Mr. Bradley for 27 years. The idea behind the lab is to show students how trigonometry is used in modern day life for many people. Along with being a fun experience, the lab expresses how to use certain trigonometric functions. This lab, in particular, specifically uses different ways to use tangent (tangent is the trigonometric function that is expressed by the opposite side divided by the adjacent side of a triangle). Tangent helps the students find the rocket height and the angle of descent that the rocket came down at. Also, it gives the students a chance to understand how certain things affect a lab, with such variables as the wind, the angle launched at, and the rocket construction.
What the students of the class have to do is build a rocket that either goes by the name of the Versatile Viking or by the Wizard. The rockets come unassembled, and the students must put them together from scratch with only instructions from the papers provided. “The construction was vital to the experiment because if you mess up while building the rocket, it could have major difficulties,” said Chadron High sophomore Cy Rayhill. Once the rockets are together, the young adults must paint them to make them a little more exciting to look at.
When the building process is complete, students must prepare the engines. The engines only include an igniter, an engine (with the fuel powder), and some burn paper (paper to prevent the rocket from burning up). The igniter is placed into a small hole at the end of the engine then plugged in this hole because the rockets are sent off by an electric current rather than by fuse. To hold the igniter in place students take a plug to push it into the same hole as the igniter until it is tight. When assembled students insert the engine into the rear end of the rocket.
Once the rocket has its engine and is fully prepared, the students get ready to launch. The tests for the launches are taken out on the practice football field because it is an open, level surface. When the launches begin students must take certain notes such as the angle of the rocket at two points done at 350 feet away and 425 feet away. The angle is determined by the readings on a clinometer (a tool used to measure angles by pointing the tip at the object). Also recovery must be conducted by students in order to know the distance away from the launch pad it had drifted in the wind.
The lab has been conducted at Chadron High School for ten years, and has been fun for many students over those years. Chadron High sophomore Larissa Hastings said, “I think it was a fun way to show how we use trig in our society.” Many people do not understand what things in life really involve trig, but thanks to this lab students are a little more knowledgable about what type of mathematics lies around us.