BOYS RANCH – Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch is home to innovative therapeutic approaches and cutting-edge learning programs.
And, on Saturday, Boys Ranch Rocketry Club member Rene, used what she’s learned at Cal Farley’s to see if she could reach new heights with a nearly nine-foot-long rocket she’s designed, built and tested.
Based on the flight simulations Rene and her Cal Farley’s instructor and mentor, Emerging Technology Coordinator Barre Wheatley, have performed, Rene’s 36.25-pound rocket, “Machinator,” could reach an altitude of about 40,000 feet. That feat would set a new unofficial altitude record by a high school student, Wheatley said. While official student records are not kept in the United States, Rene’s rocket was hoped to surpass the previous unofficial mark by more than 5,000 feet.
The rocketry club is part of Cal Farley’s Community-as-Lab program, which teams trained Cal Farley’s staff with residents to explore their unique interests and apply real-world experience to concepts learned in the classroom, said Keely Miller, director of experiential learning.
“In Community-As-Lab, we remove barriers to learning by creating fun science, technology and engineering experiences where youth can engage in creativity and exploration,” Miller said.
For Rene, planning and creating Machinator was a six-month process, hand-laying its carbon-fiber body, lathing its aluminum tail nozzle and packing its 72-inch recovery parachute. When launched, the rocket’s N-type motor, the largest a Cal Farley’s resident has ever built, provided 512 pounds of thrust, potentially pushing Rene’s creation to a top speed of Mach 2.2, or nearly 1,675 miles per hour, in just over six seconds. A series of telemetry devices, including GPS and radio trackers, two internal computers and an on-board camera will record the rocket’s flight data.
While the rocket didn’t reach the 40,000 feet goal, it still climbed well over many amateur rocket ranges, reaching an altitude of 19,528 feet. Typically amateur level rockets reach 1,500 feet. Despite, not reaching her goal, the launch was still a great accomplishment – it’s evident that no height is too high for Rene to reach for.