Fifth graders watch in awe as their STARBASE rockets take to the sky. More photos on page 20.

Rockets Away: Orchard Students Launch STARBASE Rockets

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Thursday March 29, 2018

“And we have liftoff!” Actually, there were many liftoffs at Orchard School on Friday, March 23.

Eighty-five students in Dayle Wright’s 5th grade class each successfully launched their rockets—and their dreams—on that date. The blastoffs crowned the students’ intensive and exciting five-week exploration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in the Vermont Air National Guard’s STARBASE Vermont program.

“Launch Your Dreams” is STARBASE Vermont’s motto. The Department of Defense (DOD) started the STARBASE program in Detroit, Michigan in 1991, and it was established at the Vermont Air National Guard base three years later. Its popularity and success led to the formation of a second site in Rutland in 2002. There are now fifty-nine DOD STARBASE locations, and the two Vermont programs reach over 1,500 students annually.

What do the students learn? The program involves them in hands-on activities based on the physics of flight and culminates with a student project, such as the launching of rockets built by the students themselves. After adopting individual “call names,” participants study such topics as Newton’s three laws of motion, fluid mechanics, nanotechnology, robotics, rocket construction, and computer-aided design. They also acquire important personal development skills like teambuilding, goal setting, and making healthy choices.

The students love the program. “I think it’s great that you could teach us facts about science and still make them fascinating and just plain fun,” gushed one 5th grader. “You inspired me to believe in myself; thank you so much, a billion times,” said another.

The STARGATE Vermont teaching team members are academically well qualified and serve as solid role models. Director Dan “Strider” Myers, a Master Sergeant in the US Army Reserve, received his BA in Elementary Education from Johnson State College in 1997 and became a STARBASE instructor that same year. South Burlington Site Supervisor Paige “Ladybug” Montgomery joined the STARBASE team in 2009 and obtained her Master’s degree in Education from UVM two years later. Passionate about teaching, South Burlington’ s Training Coordinator JoAnna “Hiker Girl” Tebbetts graduated from Johnson State College in 2009 with her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Environmental Science. After receiving his Master’s degree in teaching from UVM, South Burlington Instructor Andrew “Churchill” Prowten worked in Boston-area public schools until the Green Mountains and STARBASE Vermont called him back.

What are the STARBASE students’ dreams? Getting to Mars may be one of them. It is possible that one or more of them will be among the first Mars pioneers. Elon Musk, the fervent private space entrepreneur, hopes to send humans to Mars within the next decade, and he envisions the creation of a Mars colony of 80,000 people by 2040. Musk underscores the importance of thorough scientific preparation for Mars exploration and settlement. “I want to die on Mars,” Musk says, “just not on impact.”


SOURCE: William Wargo, Contributor