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Rockets, Satellites and the SMASH awards

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“We’re going to make rockets and launch them,” said Denise Perrino dissolving Alka-Seltzer tablets into small film containers, and inverting them and waiting for enough pressure built up from the chemical reaction occurring inside. “POP,” the containers shot several feet in the air followed by, “Ooohs and ahhhhs,” and, “Can you do it again?” by the children watching. In addition to the Alka-Seltzer rockets, Mrs. Perrino’s husband Ralph launched air rockets which were also a hit.

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From June 13-16, the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium hosted their final weekend of the 2013-14 school year where the theme of the weekend was “Rockets.” The weekend started on June 13, with a showing of the full-dome show titled Exploding Universe. On June 14, there was a Rocket launch demonstration followed by a screening of the Magic Treehouse. That screening was followed by a lecture by Dr. Steve Davis of SpaceX. On June 15 there was an update of St. Thomas Moore Cathedral School’s CubeSat Project and a final showing of the Magic Treehouse.

“Elon Musk founded SpaceX in order to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of access to space,” said Dr. Steve Davis. “Putting a satellite into Low Earth Orbit currently costs thousands of dollars per pound. And going to the moon are orders of magnitude more expensive than that. Even if the moon was made out of solid gold, it still would not be profitable to go and get it,” Dr. Davis continued.

“Two ways to reduce the costs of space travel are by transitioning to a commercial and innovative space industry and by creating a fully and readily reusable launch vehicle,” Dr. Davis continued as he discussed the history of his company SpaceX, and how it is looking to change space travel with their new innovative technologies.

The next day, there was an update on the Mission Possible CubeSat Project where students and faculty from the St. Thomas More Cathedral School, are working to be the first Pre-K-8th grade school to successfully launch a satellite into space. The students gave an overview of the building of their cube shaped satellite, which was on display, and what they’ve learned from the project.

“We started exploring amazing projects that we could do to inspire the students so we talked to teachers and students about what they knew about space. I actually went to one of the summer seminars with the parents and learned about CubeSat,” said teacher Melissa Pore. “The satellite has to be completed by October and it has to go through testing at Kennedy Space Center. The plan for is for the satellite is to go up on January 8, 2015.”

“I learned that we can actually communicate with satellites using hand radio. I also learned that with special software, anyone download pictures from satellites,” said seventh grader Lillian Mooney, one of many students dressed in a white lab coat and yellow hard hat.

The Friends’ weekend concluded on Monday June 16 with the second annual SMASH (Sports, Math, and Scientific Hypotheses) Awards ceremony where students from Arlington County competed to create art inspired by hypotheses about how science can explain things they see in sports such as the velocity of baseballs or hockey pucks. The SMASH competition is an effort inspire kids to get involved with STEM by infusing art, a larger effort known as STEAM (Science, Technology, Art, Engineering and Mathematics).

The Friends will resume their programming in September 2014. Their programming for the 2014-15 school year can be found on their website.

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