United Launch Alliance and Ball Aerospace Take STEM Education to New Heights

The Future intern rocket, carrying 15 BallAerospace & K-12 payloads, erected on the launch pad. Image Source: United Launch Alliance

The Future intern rocket, carrying 15 BallAerospace & K-12 payloads, erected on the launch pad. Image Source: United Launch Alliance

Centennial, Colorado. July 26, 2014 – High-power sport rockets carried payloads thousands of feet above the plains of Pueblo, Colorado, today at the United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Student Rocket Launch. The event marked the culmination of an experience designed to simulate a real-life launch campaign and inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The launch featured three, high-power sport rockets built by interns at ULA, including “The Future,” the largest rocket to launch in Colorado. Ball interns created the five largest payloads and K-12 students from Colorado, Ohio and Alabama created 13 additional payloads.

“I applaud United Launch Alliance and Ball for again leading this unique, hands-on STEM event in Colorado, a national leader in aerospace,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This annual event – building and launching rockets and creative payloads – is an amazing commitment to inspiring and growing our future workforce of innovators, involving all levels of education – from kindergarten through high school as well as undergraduate and graduate-level interns.”

Working on their own time, the ULA and Ball interns designed, built and tested the rockets and the payloads with the guidance of mentors from both companies. Approximately 65 interns and 25 mentors from ULA as well as 45 interns and 20 mentors from Ball participated this year.

This year’s lineup of rockets included the 25-foot-tall “Future” which carried 15 payloads to an altitude of approximately 9,000 feet above the ground. The “Stars ‘N’ Stripes” is a 20-foot rocket and carried two payloads, and the “Atlas IV,” at 10 feet tall, deployed a single payload.

“There is nothing like the thrill of accomplishment to inspire future success,” said Linda P. Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation, a national organization that works at the intersection of business and education to ensure that all students are STEM literate. “ULA and Ball Aerospace are providing an incredible experiential opportunity through the Student Rocket Launch, which allows young people to develop their skills and deepen their interest in STEM. Watching the rocket soar skyward with its payload and knowing that you were a member of the team that made it possible is a memory that will last a lifetime – and hopefully will translate into a lifelong love of STEM.”

The Southern Colorado Rocketeers (SCORE), Colorado Springs-based rocketry club (COSROCs) and Northern Colorado Rocketry (NCR) also launched rockets throughout the event. This year, the event also coincided with the 56th Annual National Association of Rocketry Annual Meet (NARAM-56).

Ball interns, collectively known as BIRST (Ball Intern Rocket Science Team), designed, built and tested the five largest payloads. This year’s concepts include: a self-correcting rock-climbing car that’s “driven” back by “Batman”; R/C controlled para gliders; a self-inflating balloon; a chalk cloud; and smoke grenades, environmental suites, cooling systems and many other sensors and cameras.

Thirteen K-12 student teams from Colorado, Ohio and Alabama also designed and built payloads that flew on the Future rocket. The payloads included a class teddy bear named “S. Carpenter Bear” after Colorado astronaut Scott Carpenter; an experiment to test post-launch dispersion of bar-coded Alabama cotton bolls; and payloads designed to capture images and data using cameras, GPS, geographic information system (GIS), altimeters, accelerometers and other devices.