Rockets away

PUHI — One day, Kasiah Vercelli wants to be a rocket engineer, or someone who scouts for new stars using new generation telescopes.

Vercelli was one of 20 students in the rocketry course, which capped its week-long study as part of the Kids College program with a rocket launch at Kauai Community College.

“It’s about safety first,” said Ben Schaal, another student.

Cheryl Stiglmeier, the KCC training coordinator, said each day of the week-long class has the students working on an activity, such as shaping and sanding down the noses and fins.

“I was in there Tuesday, and the students were busy working with the rocket fins,” Stiglmeier said. “They were very busy.”

Vercelli said the fins were the hardest part.

“We had to hold it in place until the glue sets,” Vercelli said. “We couldn’t let it go for at least 15 minutes.”

Twenty students took turns launching their rockets under the supervision of Jerry Nishihira, an instructor at Waimea High School, Alan Chun, an engineer from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Mana, and Stu Burley, a longtime rocketry advocate and supporter.

“Did you see that?” Burley said as the students buzzed with excitement as Arianna White’s rocket tumbled back and clunked into the launch pad following its ride into the morning sky. “If this was at the big launch in Texas, that would have earned $20,000 because the aim of rocket launches is to get the rocket to return to as close as it can to where it was launched.”

Burley dug into his wallet and pulled out a bill, presenting it to White for her feat.

In addition to his impromptu presentation, Burley also extracted a pair of rockets, which when joined with the “tester” rocket, was the prize for the top three students in the drag race, the final showdown of the top rocketry students.

Cambden Nii was voted tops, followed by Sophia Gregory, Thomas Vetter and Brent Torres.

Stiglmeier said the rocketry course was the second of the Kids College program, which started last week with Simple Agriculture.

“Next week students start the robotics program where they will end up building and programming a robot,” Stiglmeier said. “That class is also sold out. We still have seven spots left for the Great Egg race which will run July 14 through 18 and end with the race where car models will be tested on speed and a crash (hopefully, protecting its egg cargo).”

Mia Ako of the Kauai Economic Development Board said the Kids College is a collaborative effort between the college, the state Department of Education, and KEDB.


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