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Published 17 September 2020

Thorndon School has lift-off

A Thorndon student, assisted by a STEM professional, launches their rocket

Year 5-8 students at Thorndon School participated in the Rocket Challenge, a Wonder Project that helps students design, build and launch water rockets.

New Zealand is facing a shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths professionals, but Engineering New Zealand is doing something to change that. They have launched a series of free school programmes to get kids excited about STEM careers – the Wonder Project. The programmes pair teachers and students with industry professionals who come into the classroom for an hour a week over 6–8 weeks.

rocket launching 2Royal Society Te Apārangi Research Assessor Heidi de Ronde seized the opportunity to become a STEM ambassador for the Rocket Challenge that supports students to design, build and launch water rockets. She paired up with Thorndon School, conveniently located across the street, which had been enrolled by deputy principle Matt Boucher, a Science Teaching Leadership Programme graduate.

Over the course of term 3, Heidi joined two other STEM professionals in a year 7-8 open classroom to teach the engineering design process, Newton’s laws of motion and aerodynamics. 

The Challenge culminates in a final launch day which saw 15 teams pressurise their bottle rocket by bike pump before launching them into the sky...or ground, or tree, or well... into the parking lot next door!

rocket judges v2The school-wide event saw younger grades join in the sunshine for enthusiastic count downs, an olympics-style judging table, and hearty applause (or commiseration, as was fit). Royal Society Te Apārangi-sponsored prizes were awarded to the teams with the 'highest', 'farthest', 'straightest', 'prettiest', and 'worst' rocket, and each pupil also received a participant gift.

After the event, the teachers expressed their appreciation to the ambassadors for their help teaching scientific concepts, and reported that science was appearing on the platform of many student candidates in their upcoming mock-elections.

The Wonder Project is always on the look out for new ambassadors, so if you are a passionate and committed professional working in science, technology, engineering or maths and want to make a real difference, please sign up as a Wonder Project ambassador

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi