For the past three days, 11 MVGS students spent their days learning about rockets and robotics. The first day of the workshop began with a brief introduction to rocketry and the Team America Rocketry Challenge by Mr. Dietrich, who then took the students out to the launchpad to set the large red “El Diablo” rocket constructed by the Middletown TARC team aflight. After a few few scrubbed attempts, the rocket roared to life and wowed everyone on the grounds of the Middletown campus as it soared over 1000 ft. into the air leaving an ominous red trail of marker smoke exhaust. The rocket was next taken to Mr. Burton’s engine test stand where the thrust characteristics of the engine were measured and compared against the published engine specifications. Overall it was a fun day exploring the world of rocketry.
The group reconvened in Warrenton on Tuesday for a look into the world of robotics. After a look at the recent celebrity robot, Curiosity, with Mrs. LaMonica, the group spent most of the day attempting to control the brain of a simple robot. The group explored the basics of C++ programming while developing programs to control the robot as it performed simple tasks. While most groups experienced a few surprises along the way, all were proficient at basic programming by the end of the session.
The final day of the workshop was set aside for a trip to visit Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. After enduring some grueling traffic on the beltway, the group was ecstatic to get to tour the Robot Testing Facility (a.k.a. Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office) at Goddard, where students spent time with a robotics engineer who explained many of the intricacies of developing robots which can be deployed to repair and service satellites without the need of astronauts. Many of the techniques he discussed resonated with the issues encountered during each of the previous two days of the workshop. As we departed from the robotics facility, we were informed that we could friend the group on facebook to keep up with the soon-to-be-launched missions we were watching be developed during our tour (www.facebook.com/NASA.Satellite.Servicing).
Our tour continued with a look at the massive clean room where the mirrors for the James Webb Space Telescope are being tested and assembled prior to the telescope’s launch in 2016. We also visited the high pressure test chamber facility and the acoustic testing facility. By the end of the day, everyone was ready for a quick tour of the visitor center and lunch. Overall, the trip was a rousing success. MVGS extends a huge, “Thank you,” to the folks at Goddard SFC for organizing the day.