Canon City Students Make Connections While Building Rockets


When athletic director David Laughlin invited me to Canon City High School, I was beyond excited. He was eager to share a new program his students are working on. The program, SystemsGo, is an innovative high school rocket / aeroscience program that uses project-based learning to teach STEM skills, while developing teamwork, problem-solving and leadership skills. It also encourages careers in the engineering industries.

Now you might be wondering why this is something that the CHSAA Business Administrator is looking at, here are a few things that I look forward to:

  1. Share our current activity offers.

  2. Highlight the activities that make each of our school places places where students enjoy learning and growing, connecting with others, and cultivating skills (outside of the classroom) that will help them be all learners. lifelong and community contributors.

  3. In search of new activities to put under the aegis of the CHSAA.

Student leadership, speeches and debates, and music are the activities supervised by the CHSAA that tend to be extracurricular on most campuses. Viewing the SystemsGo program as another offering would be another opportunity to bridge the gap between classroom and extracurricular activities.

There are currently 14 Colorado high schools on board to start or expand their SystemsGo program. The US military (Fort Carson) has also expressed an interest in supporting the schools that are part of this program, so that’s certainly something that piqued my curiosity.

Here are some of the basics of the program, as built at Canon City High School:

  • It starts with enrolling students in a semester-long applied engineering course.

  • There is no prerequisite for students to be in the program

  • The overall goal is to create a rocket that can fly to 5,280 feet high, carrying a payload of 1 cubic lb

Laughlin said, “Every high school that is capable should seriously consider adopting this program into their curriculum. It’s more than a course, it has changed the lives of my students. This is where CHSAA can seek to add to our activity offerings – programs that develop students in a way that allows them to value the experience as something they can incorporate into their future.

Laughlin goes on to say that “all you really need to start this program is computer access to CAD. You can add to your program as you develop it. It helps that Colorado is a natural fit for programs like this, given our current aerospace posture.

The popularity of the program is HOT! Laughlin says that “it went from 0 to 100; faster than any other program in recent school history. There are currently 55 students in the CCHS program, but they continue to look for ways to increase that number. And while engineering is still a male-dominated field, the Canon City team found it was disrupting this paradigm.

While the students have worked hard to reach last year’s goal, they are focusing on this year’s goal of breaking the sound barrier. SystemsGo’s current requirements are that student groups only have an elevation of 13,500 feet for this to happen. Think about what that means. One group is to design and build a rocket that crosses the sound barrier at less than 14,000 feet above sea level.

Canon City High School Principal Bill Summers echoed the attributes of the program by touting the leadership, communication and team building skills that students acquire. “As much as this program is about science, so much is it about everything else,” Summers said.

Team captain Dimitri Zamarripa explained that this was the best class he has ever taken, how fun his teammates are and how they all put their hearts into the rocket. “This team is family. While group activities helped bring us closer, it was our trip to Texas that brought us together, ”Zamarripa said. The trip to Texas was an opportunity for them to be in the SystemsGo facility, working to better understand how to build and launch their rocket. Zamarripa went on to say, “We’re really good at the math side of things because we want to be engineers. This program has helped us grow in many other ways.

We wish them the best as they look to grow their program.

Thanks to the students and staff for inviting me to Canon City High School.

For instructions on how to create your own program, email David Laughlin: [email protected]

To learn more about SystemsGo: www.SystemsGo.org


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