By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Rocket lost after lifting off with Mac High experiment

Submitted photo##The experiment students are sending into space.
Submitted photo##The experiment students are sending into space.

[Updated 6/27/15 10 a.m.] The SpaceX Rocket carrying McMinnville High School's corrosion experiment launched on time this morning, but broke up 2 minutes, 19 seconds into its flight. The rocket and all its cargo appear to have been lost, according to NASA.

A team from Mac High's Engineering and Aerospace Sciences Academy, including students who helped design the experiement, was in Cape Canaveral,  Florida, to see the launch. They were excited to see the liftoff and to anticipate receiving data from their nanolab once it reached the International Space Station.

Instead, they watched the rocket explode.

“We’re unsure exactly what happened,” said Jeff Jackson, an Intel engineer who is also a project mentor for the EASA project. 

“From our perspective, it looked like everything went fine," he said. "Then just about the time the first stage was supposed to disengage from the rocket, it looked like there was an explosion, but it was so hard to see from the ground.”

His daughter Deborah, one of the EASA students, called the event "almost surreal."

 “My dad was looking through the binoculars and handed them over to me. I saw debris, but I thought it was stage one disengaging," said Deborah Jackson, one of a couple people in the McMinnville group who had watched a launch before.

At first, she said, she thought she just wasn't able to track the rocket through the binoculars.  When she realized  what had really happened, she said, “It was more just shock. Like ‘are you kidding me?’”

Teacher MaryBeth Kramer said her students will learn from this, just as they would have learned from their nanolab experiment. 

“It’s more than how the actual experiment worked," Kramer said. "The attitude there was let’s figure out what happened and how we’re going to fix it.  We’re moving forward.”

Student Jamie Graham, who also attended the launch and has been on the nanolab team for two years, said the project design involved “chemical, mechanical, electrical and software engineering. All parts of the experiment were designed as a 3D Cad model, then prototyped before being professionally manufactured and tested prior to being launched into space.”

The device was designed to collect data and download it every three days.  Students in McMinnville were poised to track the data and compare it to data collected from their control model.

Because the team made two models, the one for launch and one for control, as well as prototypes, the students think it won’t be too difficult to recreate the nanolab and wait for another launch.

“We’re still in the game,” Kramer said.  “The students got a chance to network with NASA people and even Buzz Aldrin was there.  They’re going to learn from this.”

“I’m still glad we were able to be there,” Deborah Jackson.said “It was a unique and beautiful experience.  Even though it was disappointing.  But we don’t do science because it’s easy."


Original story from June 26 ------------------

Metals corrode at a different rate in a state of microgravity than they do under the influence of the earth’s gravitational field, members of McMinnville High School’s after school nanolab team hypothesize.

To discover if they’re right, students from the Engineering and Aerospace Sciences Academy devised an experiment that exposes metals to a saltwater solution and constantly measures the rate of corrosion. The experiment is contained in a miniature box, as the word “nano” implies.

Mac High’s nanolab will be launched into space Sunday and installed on the International Space Station. Every three days, the data it produces will be downloaded to earth, allowing students Daniel Flores, Max Kuhn and others in the EASA classrooms to monitor its progress.

They also will be monitoring a control version on the ground in McMinnville, in order to compare earth’s gravity with the microgravity of space. Students will learn whether their hypothesis is correct, or whether metals corrode at the same rate despite differences in gravity.

The major value of the experiment is its “real world” application, said MaryBeth Kramer, EASA teacher and nanolab adviser.

“No matter how cool I can make a project in class, it’s not the same as this,” she said. “This is really going into space and really coming back. It’s not pretend science or a replica, but real.”

Kramer and her husband, Ken, a retired mechanical engineer who helped mentor the nanolab group, will be in Titusville, Florida, for the launch of the Space X rocket carrying the experiment.

Jeff Jackson, an Intel engineer who has served as the group’s primary mentor throughout the project, will be there with his daughter, EASA student Deborah Jackson. Another student, Jamie Graham, planned to go, but may have to skip the trip because of delays in the launch.

Kramer, who’s paying her own way to Florida, said she’s excited to see a rocket lift off.

In addition to watching the launch from the VIP area, she and others from the McMinnville group will tour NASA facilities and museums. “It’s going to be really exciting to share this with my students when we get back,” she said.

Kramer said she’s thrilled to see her students give their all to the nanolab project. Although it’s an after-school program, on which they won’t be graded, they’ve worked hard and spent extra time, even during winter break to fix a problem.

“They have ownership and passion for this project,” she said. “It’s not a school assignment. It’s their thing.”

Graduates from the class of 2014, who worked on the first nanolab experiment last year, have lent their expertise as well.

Micheal Cox, now attending Chemeketa, helped during winter break. So did Ryan Coleman and Josh Kaufman, she said.

Through the nanolab project, Kramer said, her students learn about technology, design, engineering and other scientific concepts. They also practice teamwork, a critical skill they’ll use in college and future careeers. And they become more aware of, and more interested in, what’s happening in space.

Kramer said she’s happy when she sees her students interact with academics and professionals in their field of interest.

“They know what they’re talking about,” she said. “They’re solving problems themselves, rather than watching someone else do it for them.”



This story in online edition is headlined, 'Rocket lost after lifting off with Mac High experiment.' Good. In 6/30/2015 page 1, top of fold headline for same story in print edition is, "EASA experiment lost in rocket explosion.' Not good. Head may leave some (many?) readers wondering what is EASA? In print edition, it's not until the seventh graf that "Engineering and Aerospace Sciences Academy" is mentioned. EASA is used in eighth graf.

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