by Robin Tyler
Though our class is technically called Problems You’ve Never Solved Before, we prefer to call ourselves the Problem Solvers. From having to find their teacher on the first day of class, to trying to successfully mail an intact Pringles chip in a bar soap box, the campers have had to find innovative ways to solve new and unique problems. The focus of our class has been the engineering design process: understanding the problem, brainstorming and planning, building, testing, analyzing data, and rebuilding to improve the performance of the device. This process ties in perfectly with our class motto: “Failure is always an option.” In our class, we try to encourage students to focus on improving their own designs and ideas rather than finding a single “right” answer.
Coming in to week three, the Problem Solvers are gearing up for their trip to the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center tomorrow to examine how our country solved one of the greatest problems in history: just how do you get to the moon? In preparation for this trip, the students have spent the past week examining projectiles through projects such as catapults, paper airplanes, and crossbows, all culminating in the compressed air rockets they made today, capable of going 14 stories high — or roughly half a football field — into the air. In building these rockets, our students have gotten to examine how to control variables, how to maximize performance, and, of course, how to make a complete redesign after catastrophic, and in this case explosive, failures. All of these skills and more will continue to be put to the test as our Problem Solvers finish out this final week of VAMPY with more projects, riddles, and builds.