Jim Brown

Creating straw rockets to learn computer-aided design skills

2019 STEM Scholar
Albany, NY Sand Creek Middle School

Jim’s Big Idea: Jim will implement a straw rocket design program. His students will design fins and nosecones that attach to the straw and create them with a 3D printer. Then they will launch the straw, analyze its performance, and make and test improvements. The project will teach computer-aided design skills and will reinforce concepts in geometry and scale.

Interesting Facts: One of Jim’s favorite lessons is having students build model wind turbines and testing the results of changing different variables to see what results in the most power produced. Students are given a model wind turbine kit to assemble. They must decide on what gearing they will use, how they will construct their blades, how many blades they will use, and at what angle they will put their blades. Students must document their results by showing the power they produced with each change, and how that guided their changes. Some students are happy to just create plain looking blades, while others want them to look just right. Sometimes, a turbine that does not look “good” performs well, and vice versa. Students discover what works and what doesn’t, and are then able to share their results.

In his own words: "In addition to teaching, I am an energy geek, and have several professional energy certifications. When not teaching in the classroom, I am usually traveling to other schools to conduct building energy audits with students, facilities, business managers, and any combination thereof. Currently, I am the trainer for the Energizing Student Potential program in Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C, which is a multi-year Energy and STEM effort for schools sponsored by the Exelon Foundation."