From rockets to rollercoasters and CSI, kids learning science the fun way.
“It's not rocket science” is a phrase you won't hear at Taft College – at least for 34 seventh graders who are attending a two-week science camp that includes designing, building and launching rockets.
The rocket launching competition Wednesday morning in a campus parking lot produced mixed results.
“Some may go up, some may go sideways, some may go both ways,” said Joe McFaddin, a TC science professor who is coordinating the camp. “There's an unpredictability factor here.”
He was right.
Some of the rockets performed as hoped, but others took their own path. Some didn't get off the ground.
After the rocket party Wednesday that utilized the technology-laden mobile science lab called “Victory,” the students headed for Magic Mountain the next day to ride – and study – roller coasters.
They wore specially designed sensors that were downloaded into a laptop computer so they can study the physics and math so critical to coaster design.
It's all part of the college's STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program that is being funded by a federal grant and donations from corporate partners.
One of them is a $36,000 contribution from Chevron, part of the company's California Partnership to invest in education and economic development.
Students also studied projectile motion and dynamic movement, using rubber band slings to launch tennis balls.
“We've got trigonometry going in, we've got algebra going in, we've got physics going in,” said McFaddin.
“This is the first time they are exposed to trig. At least that's a good start.
In the tennis ball experiment, he said, the students “record the velocity of the projectile. From an equation they can establish the angle they need to get their launch right.”
The Magic Mountain trip concluded the first week, which was titled, “Motion Meets Imagination.”
Next week's program is “Cracking the Code,” where students will explore the diversity of life through genetics.
Taking a chapter from the popular “CSI (Crime Scene Investigation)” television series, the students will extract their own DNA for genetic analysis.
Other experiments will have them collecting samples from local plants, birds and fish.
Camp will conclude with a trip to the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum's Discovery Center.
Helping McFaddin with the camp are Ken Arnold, a science teacher at Lincoln Junior High; Mike Cushine, who does educational television programming for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools; and Eric and Michelle Olinger, who teach science at Fruitvale Junior High.
Of the students attending the camp, 32 are from Lincoln Junior High and two from McKittrick School.
Students were selected for the camp based on essays they wrote.