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The biggest lessons sometimes come from the smallest mistakes.
Booker T. Washington engineering students on the Golden Eagle Rocket teams worked on their supersonic rockets all year long and then traveled to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in June to launch them. When both failed to launch, it was heartbreaking, but the students learned some valuable lessons.
“You can do a thousand things right, but it only takes one wrong thing to fail,” said their STEM teacher, Dr. Nghia Le, to a crowd of parents, teachers, and administrators gathered for presentations by the students. “They understand what they did wrong, and they aren’t giving up.” Turning to the students, he said, “I know it’s heartbreaking, but you’re going to fly one day—I know you will!”
This was the sixth trip to White Sands for Washington students in the schools STEM magnet program. Last year, the team’s rocket successfully left the launch tower — marking only the second time a high school has ever reached that milestone. The students received the SystemsGo Goddard Level Diamond Award for their achievement.
The High Altitude Rocketry class taught by Dr. Le is part of a statewide STEM curriculum called SystemsGo Aeroscience. Students start out building small rockets while they learn the principles of flight. Eventually, they build rockets that are some 20 feet long and eight inches in diameter. One of this year’s teams even invented their own nozzle design.
Nine years ago, Dr. Le went looking for an engineering firm that would work with his students and support them. He found Jacobs, a company that includes aerospace technology, and they have been collaborating ever since. In fact, this year Jacobs Senior Vice President and General Manager Lon Miller presented Dr. Le with their “Community Care” award for going above and beyond the call of duty for his students. Jacobs Technology Group Manager Alan Bell was there as well.
The SystemsGo Aeroscience program began in Fredericksburg High School in 1996 under the direction of teacher Brett Williams and is now used in many schools across Texas.