Students enrolled in a class at Haskell Indian Nations University are constructing a rocket that they hope will fly high enough to earn them top honors at an upcoming competition among other tribal colleges and universities.
The six students are working on a rocket to take to the First Nations Tribal College High Powered Rocket Competition, to be held on April 27 at the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wis.
While Haskell doesn’t offer mathematics, physics or engineering degrees, this rocketry course is a way of encouraging students to pursue math classes beyond calculus, said Lucas Miller, a faculty member and director of Haskell’s high-powered rocketry lab. Some of the students are looking to transfer into other more math-intensive degrees elsewhere, but some students are pursuing American Indian studies, business or environmental science degrees, Miller said.
“It’s just a blast,” Miller said. “It’s so much fun when we get to the actual competition. The students’ entire semester comes down to the push of a button. If something goes wrong, it’s not like they wasted their time. They learned a lot.”
The half-scale model that the students were working on last week is designed to be 6 feet tall and 3 1/2 inches around. It will be equipped with a motor that would allow the rocket to go from zero to Mach 1 in three-quarters of a second, and it’s designed to go 7,500 feet above the earth’s surface.
Some simple math — along with some complicated math — and precise woodworking skills are necessary to help make sure the rocket flies well, Miller said.
At the competition, students will be judged partly on their ability to correctly predict how high their rocket will go. Several reports the students create before the competition also weigh heavily in their overall score.
The class and the project are a natural fit for Thomas Zunie, a junior from Zuni, N.M., who built rockets throughout high school and said he was excited to join the class once he heard about it.
“It gives me an adrenaline rush,” he said. “I enjoy trying to see how high it can get.”