A High School Rocketry Club is Shooting for the Stars

RocketKids Article

Pictured: Rocketry Club team poses with two rockets Sebastian has previously built and launched. Photo courtesy of the Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab.

A high-school rocketry club has launched at the Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab. The club is made up of 20 students who represent eight local high schools in Sarasota County and is led by 17-year-old Riverview High School student Sebastian Grabowski. Its mission is to design, construct, test and launch a rocket to at least 15,000 feet. The interdisciplinary research project provides students with a real-world learning experience in the fields of physics, engineering, computer programming, chemistry, and mathematics.

Sebastian and his family moved from Poland to Sarasota in November 2020. In Poland, Sebastian attended the Polish Military Aerospace Academy and has successfully built and launched rockets to over 2,800 feet. Once in Sarasota, he quickly worked to form his own rocketry club at Riverview High School. While he was able to generate some interest there, he ultimately decided that the program needed to be shared in a broader way and include more schools. He first proposed the idea of an interschool rocketry club after volunteering for the Fab Lab's engineering summer camp in 2022 and simply by word of mouth, the program soon took off like a rocket. As for his adjustment from Poland to the U.S, Sebastian says it was definitely very hard in the beginning. Language was a bit of an issue and he had to take some online courses to keep up with his class, but with the help of the rocketry club, everything has worked out well. “I think I finally found my place here in Sarasota. I just had to look for that place,” he says.

For as long as he can remember, Sebastian has dreamed of becoming a pilot. In the eighth grade, he started to build his own rockets at home which made a mess and left a bad odor that his mom did not appreciate. These days, his mom is likely very proud of her son who has hopes to attend Texas A&M University, Penn State, or the University of Central Florida this fall and major in aerospace engineering.

In the meantime, with guidance from professional mentors, including Fab Lab board member and physics teacher Russell Finger, the students in the rocketry club are determining plans and goals, testing rocket fuel chemicals, designing the rocket nozzle and cone using computer-aided design software, and programming adjustable fins to control the rocket's flight. Currently, they are seeking volunteer mentors in the field of aerospace and/or mechanical engineering and donors to help the program continue to grow and foster the next generation of STEM leaders. In addition, the group seeks in-kind donations of metal stock and fiberglass tubing. The students' efforts would secure their title as the first high school or amateur team (including collegiate groups) in Florida to launch a rocket 15,000 feet.

"I believe that space exploration has the power to bring people together and to inspire us to achieve great things," shared Sebastian. "The fact that this project is a pioneering effort for high school students makes it all the more meaningful to me. It shows that age is not a barrier to achieving great things and that with hard work and determination, anyone can make a difference in the world."

Anyone interested in fueling the students' desire to launch their dreams can make a secure donation through the team's GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/fab-rocket. To get involved or learn more, please contact info@suncoastscience.org or call 941-840-4394.

Pictured: Rocketry Club team poses with two rockets Sebastian has previously built and launched. Photo courtesy of the Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab.

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