Rippowam Cisqua School's Young Engineers

4th grade students at Rippowam Cisqua School visit the Rippowam Applied Physics Laboratory on the Upper Campus!

21st century learning is alive and well at Rippowam Cisqua School, and on November 26th and 27th, the School’s 4th grade students traveled to the Upper Campus to meet with physics teacher Charlie Duveen in the Rippowam Applied Physics Laboratory. Given only a few materials—a helium filled gas container (balloon), a platform (Dixie cup), shroud lines (sewing thread), a tether line, ballast (a lump of clay), and adhesive (masking tape) — these young engineers worked collaboratively to construct and test the slowest rising launch vehicle.

The objective for each design team was to collect the necessary data (distance traveled and time) so that the team could calculate the vehicle's upward velocity. In his briefing to the students, Duveen told them that the key to success in meeting this challenge was to work as a team. Good teammates, he said, help each other to solve problems, supporting each other, even when things go wrong.

Through thick and thin, the design teams persevered, recording data over several trials and adjusting the launch vehicle on successive launches to improve its performance. Finally, the students made a labeled drawing of their launch vehicle, each design of which was in some way unique.

This project—which Duveen coordinated with Lower Campus math teacher Beth Smith, 4th grade teacher Nora Zahner, and 4th grade intern Hayden Morris— effectively enables Rippowam Cisqua educators to link the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) curriculum on both the Lower and Upper Campuses, which makes for a dynamic experience for each student.

“I am always amazed, but not surprised, that these young people can effortlessly combine math, science, art, and engineering tasks in the short space of an hour,” Duveen said. “I am not surprised because I know they have been doing this on the Lower Campus from JPK to now. Whenever I work with the 4th graders, I find eager learners, yearning to demonstrate their varied talents and capabilities.”

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