Winning aerospace design sends students on journey from Capi
by Marshall Space Flight CenterMore articles in People
Christopher Broere and Brendan Dwyer are at that "in-between" age. For most
11-year-olds, that means the time between being a child and becoming a
For Christopher and Brendan, it means being in the period between speaking
to Congress, meeting some of NASA's top officials -- including NASA
Administrator Sean O'Keefe and Art Stephenson, director of the Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. -- and doing their 6th grade
Christopher and Brendan aren't your average pre-teens from Northport, N.Y.
They are winners of NASA's Aerospace Technology Engineering Design Challenge
- an educational contest for 5th through 8th grade students across the
country. The contest is one of several NASA Student Involvement Programs,
which challenge students to develop science and technology skills through
group educational projects.
The design project challenged students to create the lightest possible
launch platform using only balsa wood sticks and dowels, cardboard and hot
glue -- while supporting an object many times heavier than the platform
itself. To make the challenge really tough, the platform had to survive
repeated launches - just like NASA's real launch pads.
Brendan and Christopher's winning design weighed just over an ounce, but was
able to launch a "rocket" 70 times heavier. As a result, their entry beat
those of dozens of other students from across the United States.
As a reward for their ingenuity, NASA treated the youths to a trip to
Washington, D.C., where they demonstrated their winning design to a
Congressional space subcommittee. Next, the boys received a trip to U.S.
Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, courtesy of
NASA, and capped off their tour with a visit to the Marshall Center, showing
their project to Center Director Stephenson.
"What these young men accomplished is amazing," Stephenson said. "It's one
of the most rewarding things for me to see students grasp highly technical
concepts at an early age. Christopher and Brendan have very bright futures
ahead of them."
Bright futures certain to be enhanced by their calm, cool and collected
attitudes. When asked if they were nervous presenting their design to
Congress, Christopher and Brendan shrugged and shook their heads. Forget
nerves. The life-long friends were too excited about their design to suffer
from a case of "butterflies."
"What we learned from this is teamwork," Brendan said. "After several
trial-and-error designs, we combined our best ideas into one -- and it
Brendan, the son of Sean and Maureen Dwyer of Northport, is a 6th grader at
Northport Middle School where his favorite subjects are science and math.
Christopher, the son of Harry and Karen Broere of Northport, also attends
6th grade at Northport Middle School, but favors science, computers and
social studies. Winning the aerospace design challenge, Christopher said,
gave him an appreciation of NASA's commitment to education.
Both Christopher and Brendan told NASA Administrator O'Keefe of their dream
to one day explore outer space.
They just might make that dream come true, too. After all, how many
11-year-olds get to speak to Congress, meet the head of NASA or spend time
studying the rocket models in the office of a center director?
Not many. But Christopher and Brendan took it all in stride when asked to
sum up their experience as contest winners.
"It was cool!" said Christopher, as Brendan nodded in agreement.
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