Home News Local News RISD hopes SystemsGo launches students into workforce

RISD hopes SystemsGo launches students into workforce

From left, Alejandro Lerma, Joseph Garcia and Raul Rivas prepare for their rocket launch for Roswell High School’s SystemsGo New Mexico class. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part examination of the impact of the SystemsGo program within the Roswell Independent School District.

A partnership is being formed between Roswell Independent School District (RISD), Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell (ENMUR), and the Roswell International Air Center (RIAC) to give local students opportunities in aerospace and the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Educators and representatives of the partnership were present at Goddard High School’s rocket launch on Sept. 19 and shared their views on the SystemsGo program with the Daily Record.

As shared in previous coverage, SystemsGo New Mexico is now offered at Roswell High School (RHS) and GHS. Students build three different rockets during the school year and perform a launch for each rocket. The final exam will be held in Jal in April, where the students’ rockets will carry a one-pound payload for one mile.

RISD Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy described the class saying that students are given rocket parts and no instructions. McIlroy said they work as a team and then analyze their launches, then the teacher introduces principles of physics, design and flight relevant to what students are learning. McIlroy said the students are required to engage in problem-solving, public speaking, collaborative creative and critical thinking in the SystemsGo class.

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McIlroy and Dave Wilden, executive director of the Pecos Valley Regional Cooperative and SystemsGo representative, shared the statistic that 65 percent of students who participate in SystemsGo continue to pursue careers in engineering after high school.

“It’s good for kids,” Wilden said. “It’s good for the economy. The thing is all of these skills are transferable.”

Wilden said the state has “a deep, rich history of aerospace” and was once the field’s hub, in the 40s and 50s. He said SystemsGo has been building the workforce in Texas since 1996 and in the last three years in New Mexico. He explained New Mexico is the first SystemsGo group outside of Texas, and the New Mexico program has grown from final exams launching nine rockets in 2017, 16 rockets in 2018 and plans for 40 rockets to launch in the spring.

“This is not a failure because he is going to able to learn from that rocket not launching,” McIlroy said as she gestured towards a GHS student during the launch. “That may be a more valuable lesson than a successful flight. And so, that’s another critical skill that kids need to have too — is that failure is redefined, because it is always a learning opportunity. That’s the exciting part of it.”

Wilden said juniors would make the one-pound payload and one-mile rocket and seniors will work on transonic rockets, which break the sound barrier. He explained juniors can use a software program in developing their rockets, but seniors will have to do it “all by hand, mapped out in tenths-of-a-second” — and before the rocket is built, they have to justify their math before a panel of four National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineers.

Jennifer Cole, RISD’s director of federal programs, said the local university and school district are working together to provide career ready pathways for students. Cole said the two funded pathways are aerospace engineering and child development education, which offers high school kids the opportunity to earn college credit and to graduate high school with “a real direction.”

Cole said the intention is to provide high school students with a meaningful senior-year experience “launching them into the future” for the workforce or higher education.

In the process of developing a partnership with ENMU-R and the RIAC, Cole said Mark Bleth, RIAC manager, contacted the district about a STEM exposition at Holloman Air Force Base and as a result of this connection, Cole said some RISD students will join 3,000 statewide students in attending.

Cole said SystemsGo and the robotics club at Early College High School and University High School are among the RISD STEM initiatives.

“Our hope is we can continue our partnership with the air center and with ENMU-R to develop the aerospace engineering pathways and graduate students in the areas of STEM and aerospace engineering,” Cole said.

Bleth said he came to the GHS launch to show his support for local students that may be employed by the air center in the future. He said the city’s air center is working with the two schools to recruit students early and hopes they will return to Roswell if they pursue education elsewhere. For students in middle school, Bleth said they may see a return to the moon or a landing on Mars in their lifetimes.

“This is obviously important for these activities just because it gets kids hands-on and takes them out of the theory side of rocketry,” Bleth said. “They’re learning about propulsion, principles of flight — and it’s just a lot of fun. It brings it into a small scale but these things, a lot of the rocket companies’ owners that are out there started exactly at this level, or chemists or aeronautical engineers, or whatnot, were model rocketry hobbyists as kids.”

With new aerospace initiatives — and taking stock of all the space-centered facilities statewide — Belth said New Mexico could “compete with or surpass” California or Florida in the space industries.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.