It’s more than just rocket science


Grace Vance

On Feb. 7 the planetarium will host an event called ‘Rockets! Rockets! Rockets!’ one of the three free public shows that they hold each month. The event will feature a show called ‘Secret of the Cardboard Rocket’, which is in association with MU’s Department of Engineering’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) team. Before and after the show students and visitors will have the chance to ask questions and speak to the team.
The students behind the AIAA organization develop rockets for their MU school club and educational purposes and have entered contests like the 7th Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC), as well as national competitions.
“These guys go to rocket competitions, they build the rockets from scratch, they design the payloads, [and] they create the fuel that these rockets use,” Planetarium director Melanie Knocke said. “These are guys who build rockets for the [team and] for the fun of it.”
The students behind the AIAA organization do more than just build rockets, though. According to their Facebook page at Mizzou AIAA, they are “dedicated to furthering interest in the Aerospace sciences” by not only entering competitions, but also speaking to students and giving presentations about what their expertise. The planetarium will feature a show in correlation to the AIAA interactive exhibits to give visitors education in different ways.
“[The MU students] are going to be here with exhibits that are out in the hallway and we’re going to be showing ‘Secret of the Cardboard Rocket’ inside the dome,” Knocke said. “So it’s to tie it all together to give our visitors more information in fun ways.”
The 30 minute show is essentially a tour of the solar system, but it’s given a new twist by following a group of kids that camp out in a cardboard box that they made in to a rocket. The kids then travel through space using a book as a guide to visit all of the planets. Although this show was made to entertain kids in the elementary school level, Knocke believes there is no age limit for visitors to enjoy watching it.
“There’s a lot of details packed into [this show,] so it’s geared more toward fourth and fifth graders but the data that’s in it is pretty dense,” Knocke said. “It’s a lot of stuff that they cram packed into it so any age group can get enjoyment out of the show. Students in Rock Bridge are more than welcome to come to this.”
Between the show and members of the AIAA organization attending, Knocke believes this event is a great way for RBHS students to learn about the team and engineering by giving them time to speak to the MU students about their profession.
“The Rock Bridge students can come and talk to these college students who are out there actually making, designing and launching these rockets,” Knocke said. “If you’re interested in that kind of thing I think it’s a great opportunity to see what [options] are out there for students, especially high school and college students.”
Dalene DeLong, the planetarium assistant, believes events like this are great ways to inform students and get them interested in astronomy — the stars, planets and everything that makes up the universe. Unlike some planetarium videos like the laser shows that are solely for viewer enjoyment, she said visual shows are made to teach and capture the interest of elementary school and high school students and allow them to learn new things in a fun way.
“We are educating through an entertainment media, but it’s not an entertainment thing. It’s a way of getting kid’s attention and providing them information,” DeLong said. “I hope that [students] take out some knowledge about the solar system, about astronauts, about our Earth [and] it’s place in the galaxy and the universe.”
Many students like senior Erika Getting attend shows at the planetarium because of their interest in learning more about astronomy. Although she hasn’t gone to a lot of shows, she said the couple times she has been it was a fun, educational and different than what any other school has to offer.
“It’s really nice that [the planetarium is] right here and that we don’t have to go to any other school to see it,” Getting said. “It’s a good opportunity to learn about our solar system and stars.”
Much like Getting, DeLong agrees that the planetarium’s shows and events are a great way to teach students about astronomy, but also let them start becoming interested by watching a show or attending an event. With so many people turning their attention to their devices, DeLong looks forward to reaching people by showing what the planetarium has to offer.
“[It’s] a fantastic way to educate students about the universe and about what they can see at night. We are so bound with technology, and we’re stuck in the house,” DeLong said. “It would be great if everybody went out, put the cell phones down, put the laptops down, got rid of the computers and TV and just go out and looked. Just watch what’s going on out there.”
By Grace Vance