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Students learn about flight at NMSU

Students from across southern New Mexico spent a week learning the basics of flight at New Mexico State University's Aerospace Laboratory in a program sponsored by the NASA Glenn Research Center and NMSU's Colleges of Education and Engineering.

SEMAA participant Sebastian Triste, a seventh_grader at Sierra Middle School, shows off his rubber band powered airplane during his time at New Mexico State University. The plane took more than six hours to build. (Contributed photo)

is part of the Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SNM SEMAA) developed by the university with support from NASA, Toyota, Honda, the El Paso Corp., U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and the New Mexico Legislature. SEMAA is in its fourth year at NMSU.

"This program shows that science and math mean something and are real," said Susan Brown, director of the academy.

Students use what they are taught in projects such as building bottle rockets, kites, wind-up planes and solid fuel rockets. They also are able to experience flight simulation and use a virtual wind tunnel to learn some of the key concepts of aerodynamics.

Student-built bottle rockets are launched at the end of the week using a pump that fills the bottle with pressure. The pressure is released and the rocket shoots off while students measure the distance it travels and the time it is in the air. Each bottle rocket contains a "pilot," a raw egg that students must keep safe during the flight. The cockpit of the bottle rocket is designed to cushion the egg using materials of the students' choice, such as cotton balls, plastic wrap, Styrofoam or shredded paper. The team whose egg does not crack, or whose pilot survives the flight, and has the highest flight, wins the Eggs Prize Cup at the end of the week.

Elsie Lopez, a ninth grader at Chaparral Middle School, said he thinks it's a great program for kids his age.

"You get to learn more about NASA and aerospace, math and science," Lopez said. "We could be a big part of NASA when we grow up."

SEMAA focuses on preparing middle school students for the transition to high school and into postsecondary programs, career awareness with emphasis in the science, mathematics, engineering and technology fields and helping students learn through hands-on activities and research.