Move over rocket crackers, your child can now fly a real rocket, thanks to Rocketeers, a startup which is now teaching students how to fly one.
Founded by Bengaluru-based aerospace engineers Divyanshu Poddar and Akash Ekka, alumni of Indian Institute of Space Technology (IIST), the company aims to develop a model rocketry ecosystem in India. Both Poddar and Ekka, enthusiasts in the space education sector, cherished a dream of working on it since their college days but could not for lack of adequate resources. Now, they are not only building model rockets but also collaborating with schools and colleges to encourage interest among youngsters.
Model rocketry in India
“We are the first and only startup who are working on model rocketry in India with solid fuel power, something very popular in the US and Europe. Now, we have more than 15,000 rockets across India, in institutions and colleges. Our focus is on space education and so schools and colleges are our main target groups. So far, we have engaged with more than 50 schools,” Ekka told Express Parenting.
The Rocketeers team has been conducting workshops not only in institutions located in the metro cities but also in the remotest areas in the country. Their vision is to open avenues for students to explore space education through alternate methods of learning. The workshops, which are held for up to two days, encourage enthusiasts to understand concepts through DIY activities.
Alternate method of learning
“We seek schools and try to get them to understand the importance of alternate education that triggers excitement and thrill among students, as compared to a regular academic course. It is usually a two-day workshop which schools try to accommodate during the weekend. First, the students are made to understand the concept. Then, they build our flagship rocket which is designed to be stable and safe, and then they fly it, under supervision. For intermediate students, the same process is followed on the first day of the workshop. On the second day, they are given a DIY kit. Based on what we teach them, the students then have to figure out how to design the rocket from scratch. We conduct the workshop in a manner where their competitive skills are stimulated,” Ekka said.
A versatile education tool
Poddar explained, “Not only does model rocketry encourage students to explore Maths and Science but also allows them to manipulate it. By the time a student is in the 5th or 6th standard, he or she is introduced to other complex mathematical concepts, who then begins to wonder how it is applicable in one’s day-to-day life. Model rocketry tends to be one of those activities which allows them associate with Maths and Physics in a real manner. For instance, our model rocket lands with a parachute. The rocket will come down slower or faster, as per the varying size of the parachute. This can be directly related to the curriculum children are studying in schools, in this case, terminal velocity. Every topic that is taught in Maths and physics from 5th to 12th standard can be explained with model rocketry.”
Not just the school curriculum, through model rocketry, students can inculcate the values of accuracy and precision. “Young children do not really comprehend the value of doing something properly or accurately, which can be understood through activities in model rocketry. It is a DIY activity which requires diligence. If your rocket is not made properly, then it will not fly. We have designed our kits to be fairly intensive for which students have to work hard. But at the end, it is very rewarding to see your efforts have been successful,” expressed Poddar.
Rocketeers have five types of model rockets. They have also opened an e-commerce portal from where anyone can buy the products, priced between Rs 800 and Rs 3000.
Who can participate in the workshops?
Usually students as young as those from the 5th standard participate in this workshop. “We, however, also did a workshop with students of the 2nd standard, along with senior students. But it is difficult to make them simply sit through the workshop since they have a very short attention span,” said Ekka.
The workshop requires students who are minors to get permission from their parents since it involves an exercise in which proper care and safety measures have to be taken into account. At the end of the session, the team also interacts with parents and teachers. “We have received a lot of positive feedback,” Ekka informed.
While children love to read and watch fascinating things about space and rockets, not many know how to guide them towards pursuing a career in the same field. “Today, go to any school in India and ask the students what they want to become. Among various answers, there might be one aiming to become an astronaut. But how many know about how to get into it? I won’t say space education is in its nascent stage but it has not really penetrated into the minds of people as a career. For those students who don’t know much about this field, our effort is to introduce them to it. This excites students as well as parents,” Ekka signed off.