For release September 6, 2006


Kindergarteners at Hickerson Station Elementary School recently fired straw and pop rockets during a visit by Dr. Trevor Moeller of Manchester and three graduate students from The University of Tennessee Space Institute.

Their teacher, Diane Anderson, scheduled “Space Week” for her students and invited UTSI to participate. She and the youngsters have been corresponding with Astronaut Heidi Maria Stefanyshyn-Piper, who is scheduled to be aboard a future shuttle launch.

Dr. Moeller, research associate professor, accompanied by Sonya Nelson of Wisconsin, Ashley Owens of Martin, Tenn., and Jeffrey King of Memphis shared information about rockets with the 14 children. (One member of the class, Blake Patterson, was absent.) Ms. Nelson had made “pop” rockets for each child, and before launching them, the children colored various designs on their rockets.

In the classroom, Moeller demonstrated a model of a high-powered rocket and responded to numerous questions by the kindergarteners.

Outside, each student took turns firing “pop” rockets – small paper tubes with a cap filled with water and alka seltzer to provide the lift-off power. Next, each student fired a “straw” rocket made from plastic straws.

“Our students are still excited and talking about your visit,” Ms. Anderson wrote Moeller the day after the August visit. “Who knows? I may be teaching a future astronaut.” She thanked him and the students for “the time and effort that you put into this lesson for my kindergarteners.”

Each child also sent brief messages, thanking Moeller and the students.

Hickerson Station kindergarteners take a break from launching rockets during “Space Week” at the school. From left, the students are Jonathon Johnson, Aryana Hamrick, Alissa Gipson, Galen Raines, Cade Davis, R.J. Kelly, Chase Davis, Leah Swarts, Frankie Austin, Felicity Cyree, Autumn Baker, Harrison Lucas-Hullett, Keegan Brennan, and Abigail Monroe. In back are Gretchen West, teacher assistant, Jeffery King, Sonya Nelson, Ashley Owens, Dr. Trevor Moeller, and Diane Anderson, kindergarten teacher.

Some of the kindergarten students await their turn to launch paper rockets that they colored.

Gaylen Raines prepares to launch a straw rocket as Dr. Trevor Moeller watches.


Preparing a rocket for kindergarteners to launch are, from left, UTSI grad Students Sonya Nelson, Ashley Owens, Jeffrey King and
Dr. Trevor Moeller.

— UTSI Photos