Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Bottle rockets give first-year engineers hands-on experience

Photo courtesy Calvin College Engineering Department

 Last Friday, students in Engineering 101 kicked off the semester by firing bottle rockets across commons lawn. Their assignment required them to build a rocket capable of flight using nothing but pop bottles, duct tape and play-dough.

Sophomore Daniel Wharton stood in the cold with a red caution sign in his hands as he steered pedestrian traffic away from the rockets. He said that so far no one had been hurt despite there being one rocket that went haywire and soared towards the watching crowd.

First-year engineering student Anna Little warned, “If there’s anyone there, you definitely want to get out of the way.”

Despite the threat of danger, students reported that the bottle rockets were a highlight of the class. As first-year student Audrey Frelier put it, “It was so fun! I mean, you get to shoot things off of launchers.”

Apart from the entertainment aspect, the project also gave students an opportunity to apply what they learned in class to the real world.

“This project is a first try at getting students to understand the engineering design process,” said professor Gayle Ermer.

“We’re trying to teach a structured approach to solving problems, so we gave them flow charts that say when you have a new challenge, you’re going to do this, then this, then this,” said Ermer. “And the bottle rockets are a first way they get to test that out.”

 Frelier agreed regarding the benefits of the project. “It’s really important because you get to work with the materials and you get to practice working with other classmates,” she said.

 To students, the bottle rocket project was a positive introduction to the engineering program. Frelier stated that she chose Calvin’s program because of its efficiency, with four years being the average time until graduation. She also cited statistics indicating the effectiveness of the program, with 88 percent of Calvin engineering graduates finding jobs within six months of graduating.

 Little emphasized the personal aspect of the engineering program. “The professors are great. There’s an awesome community, especially for women engineers. My whole floor is basically full of engineers, so we all struggle together,” she quipped.

 Little added that spending class launching bottle rockets was a nice change in routine. “It’s the only reason it’d be totally okay to get soaking wet on a cold fall day.”

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