Space Cowboys help Magnolia State explore the final frontier

By Susan Lassetter

photoAcross the Magnolia State, some K-12 students have their eyes on the stars after taking part in Mississippi Space Week.

Created by Mississippi State’s Space Cowboys Rocketry team, the event gave classes the tools and advice needed to build and launch rockets at their schools.

“It gave me chills to see all of these kids so excited about rocketry,” said Deanna Brown, co-outreach coordinator for the team. “When we asked one class what they learned, one little boy yelled ‘I learned that space is awesome!’ It’s been a great experience.”

Team members took turns visiting the more than 20 classes across Mississippi that participated in the event. And to help in-between visits, they have “Goddard”––a purple Muppet-like character with a love for rockets.

“We wanted to make rocketry fun for the younger kids, and Goddard helps make it interesting for them. And don’t underestimate the younger kids,” Brown, a freshman, said. “They are really intelligent and want to learn the concepts.”
The videos co-star senior James Kelly as “Dr. Rocket” and, later, freshman Laurel Marsh as his niece “Subscale.”

Goddard was created by team captain Mary Kate Smith and is brought to life by aerospace senior Nathan Byrd.

“I had a lot of fun coming up with Goddard’s personality and working out mannerisms that would be fun to watch but could also pull kids into the topic,” Byrd said.

Brown said producing the videos and overseeing Mississippi Space Week helped energize the Space Cowboys and was a great introduction to the team for new members like her.

“I knew nothing about rockets when I joined the team,” Brown said. “I just thought they were cool. Leading the outreach team was a great way to get started and build my confidence for helping with Apollona.”

Named after the sun god in Greek mythology, Apollona was the team’s entry that finished fifth out of 25 rockets in the 2013 NASA University Student Launch Initiative. The Cowboys also won the competition’s Design Review Award for the best written-reviews and formal presentation during competition.

Additionally, Mississippi Space Week and the Goddard video series helped the team earn the community outreach award at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region II Student Conference––its third consecutive win in that competition.

Brown said the team hopes to continue its success during this academic year. The Cowboys already are busy building their next USLI entry—titled “Major Tom”—and planning space week 2014—coming in the spring.

“Our team is pretty much a big quirky family,” Brown said. “We have a lot of fun working together and are always looking forward to the next challenge coming our way.”

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