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Rockets, summer program helps IIT freshmen soar

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Updated: August 2, 2014 12:34AM

A group of college students is doing more than buying twin XL bedding sheets to prepare for the upcoming school year — they are launching model rockets.

About 30 students spent the last few days building rockets in the Exelon Summer Institute program at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The four-week summer program is designed to help underserved incoming college freshmen there improve their understanding of science, technology, engineering and math subjects.

Now, in it’s seventh year, the IIT program also helps students get acquainted with difficult course work and gives them a chance to explore the campus before the semester begins.

“Our purpose is to show our kids how to actually build things ... how to really develop their innovation and their skills and their ability to express themselves in ways they haven’t had a chance to do in high school before they’re in college,” said April Welch, the Exelon Summer Institute’s program director.

On Friday, students were divided into teams of three and launched 11 rockets.

Each rocket had two parachutes inside tied to an altometer, which measure how high each rocket went and a nose cone that goes at the top of the rocket. The nose cone was made by the students on a 3-D printer.

Students were careful to put enough weight on their rocket because if it flew too high, it could have attracted some unwanted attention.

“If it’s over a certain distance, a radar picks it up and [the Air Force] has to check it out,” said Victor Medina, an instructor for the program.

The rockets traveled as high as 714 feet.

“They prepare you for a lot of the stuff you’d have to do with the projects and working with people that are difficult to work with,” said student Brianna Koning, who also worked with students Sarah Palmer and Victoria Smith. “[The program] builds your patience for your people skills.”

Luis Artiga, a student in the program, saw a freshmen orientation group pass through campus a few days before his rocket launch. Instead of being confused on his first day he said he will be the one helping other freshmen find their way through campus.

“I felt like a sophomore [seeing that group], I just wanted to say, ‘Hey look, a freshie.’”


Twitter: @mlespana

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