October Skies in May - NBC 7 San Diego

October Skies in May

High School Students take sky high dreams to Washington D.C.



    "So, every time you watch it go up, you're thinking , oh it's different this time," said San Marcos senior Geoffrey Leeds, "So, it's a new experience every time."

    Leeds and seven other San Marcos High School students practiced launching rockets at Fiesta Island on Saturday, which happened to be national space day.

    It's kind of the final test flight. 

    They have been perfecting their rocket launching since December, even working over the winter break.

    October Skies...in May

    [DGO] October Skies...in May
    It was 3,2,1, liftoff on Fiesta Island.
    (Published Sunday, May 9, 2010)

    It paid off.

    The team found out it's one of only six California teams qualifying to compete in the national competition in Washington D.C.  later this week.

    "Oh my gosh.  We couldn't believe it," said physics teacher Deanna Gifford, "Then I was like, oh boy, because it was going to cost about $10,000 to make the trip."

    Private and corporate donors stepped in to pick up the tab and now all eight students, and two team leaders, will travel to the nation's capitol on Thursday.  The students are even missing their senior prom.

    "Our one senior girl, she already had a dress. And several of the students already had dates," said Gifford.

    The students challenge is to construct a hand-made rocket. It must launch to 825 feet of elevation, and make it back to the ground in about 40 to 45 seconds. The catch is, no parachutes, and an egg hidden inside the rocket cannot break. The team is using window blinds as a streamer to help slow the rocket in its descent.

    While their innovations are impressive, even their teacher says this is not all about the rockets, or even the competition.  Rather, there's a life lesson here.  Through trial and error, they're learning from their mistakes and inspiring other students.

    Gifford says two years ago, there were only 15 students who signed up for physics at San Marcos High School.

    "Now, we have over 50," she says, "And next year, I think it's going to go way over because the other students on campus are catching this excitement."

    She's hoping the word spreads and the kids take these lessons with them.

    "And I know they're all excited to go on to college and continue to do something science and engineering related."