More than a decade ago, Mizzou’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) began hosting an annual rocket camp to excite elementary students about space and science.
Each year, around 35 fifth and sixth graders from across Columbia spend the weekend building and launching their own rockets. However, earlier this semester, AIAA and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), two Mizzou organizations passionate about rocketry, merged to form the Mizzou Space Program (MSP).
MSP is a student club of aerospace engineers who compete in yearly competitions, conduct research projects for corporations and certify memberships in the Tripoli Rocketry Association. MSP has also taken on the responsibility of hosting Rocket Camp this year.
MSP plans to keep Rocket Camp’s activities the same with students beginning their first day by learning the foundations of rockets and engineering in a classroom before they get their hands on any materials. Then, the young engineers spend the next day constructing rockets in teams to eventually see whose will go the farthest.
Cale Crawford, the director of MSP, is excited for this spring’s camp.
“We split the campers into small competition teams tasked with creating a water rocket out of a 2-liter bottle, which we then launch on Francis Quadrangle. Individual campers will then assemble an Estes rocket kit. On Sunday morning, we launch the Estes rockets at a location like Epple Fields,” he said.
Though only about 35 students can attend, the camp is free to provide access to STEM topics and projects such as rocketry for students of all financial backgrounds.
Crawford’s involvement with MSP has allowed him to see the impacts of Rocket Camp on the community.
“I personally have spoken [to] a handful of incoming freshmen at Mizzou who [have] attended Rocket Camp when they were in sixth grade, so it’s definitely had a lasting impression on at least some of our campers,” he explained.
And it is this legacy that has inspired MSP’s big goals for getting more youth involved with aeronautics.
“Our organization has grown so much in the past year that we’ve actually created an elected position for outreach and diversity and set aside a budget specifically for developing and hosting outreach events beyond Rocket Camp,” Crawford said.
Through these Crawford hopes to “encourage diversity in STEM and foster a deeper interest in the aerospace field than someone might develop through exposure to general pop culture.”