LIVINGSTON, NJ — Eighth-grade students enrolled in Michael Jeskey and Ken Zushma’s enriched technology education class at Heritage Middle School successfully completed a capstone iSTEM project prior to the end of the school year. 

What started as a lunchtime conversation with science teacher Christopher Russoniello, the three teachers decided to create a true integrative STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activity using rockets.

“The areas of STEM are often taught in silos,” Zushma said. “It really helps give students a real world experience when we can teach across the curriculum.” 

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It was decided that Russoniello would drop in to the technology education classes and teach the science of rocketry. Following his visit, students used that knowledge to research and design their own rocket. 

“It gives students an authentic learning experience outside of the traditional classroom,” said Russoniello.

Students began the design process and utilized the 3D printers in the technology labs to create nose cones for their rockets. 

“Some students used CAD software to create custom designed nose cones,” said Jeskey. “It gives students a lot of freedom in their designs.” 

Students also designed recovery systems to safely bring their rockets back to earth.

“There are no kits here,” said Zushma. “Students created every part of the rocket from paper, cardboard, packing tape and other common materials.” 

After constructing their rockets, students added the solid fuel engines and following proper safety protocol, successfully launched their rockets in the airspace above the fields of Heritage Middle School.

Students utilized their math skills by measuring their launch angle and calculating their height. Many rockets traveled more than 300 feet in the air. Following the launch event, students completed an evaluation of their designs and considered modifications that would improve their performance.

With the design challenge being very popular among students, the teachers plan to make the team teaching event an annual event.