The Year 10 design and engineering class of 21 has spent the year designing and constructing duel-stage rockets from everyday materials like cardboard and balsa wood, with the countdown on for their launch this term.

The rockets range from 40cm to one and a half metres.

“What I’ve been striving for is to get them to try and think about what they’re trying to achieve beforehand, working towards it and doing a bit of trial and error,” science and maths teacher Jacob Willard says.

“We do lots of theoretical work about aerodynamics and basic rocketry and stability, centre of balance, centre of pressure – in order to make sure the rocket flies properly, but because our rockets over the years have been getting a bit more powerful we started to head towards the idea of making a wind tunnel.”

The wind tunnel has been crucial in engaging students and helping them develop and continually reconfigure their designs.

Some recycled bits of sewagegrade PVC donated by TasWater, a huge industrial-strength fan and a lot of fiddling has resulted in a wind tunnel that is “humming along really, really well now,” according to Willard.

“You can just tell that the kids get it because not only is it visual, but it’s practical, it’s hands-on, they can feel it and they can see that it would move without the wind, they can see that the wind we’re getting up to 50-60 kilometres an hour, and they can feel the stability of their rockets.”

Willard says after the rockets launch, the first stage burns for about three or four seconds – and then ejects at the same time as it ignites the second stage.

“Even with really high clouds, you just don’t see them here, they’re gone,” he says.

“This year’s group are unbelievably motivated, best year level we’ve ever had...

“I thought I just about knew all the different ways you could do it and every year I’m surprised by kids coming up with new techniques.”

Besides the rocket theory, Willard says kinaesthetic skills are some of the more obvious learning outcomes from the classes.

“Some of these kids have never held a tool in their hand, so having them do really fine motor-skill work has been great.”