The sounding rocket as pedagogical tool: A report from ten years of experience with the S.P.I.R.I.T. Undergraduate sounding rocket program

Timothy F. Wheeler

    Research output: Contribution to journalConference article

    1 Scopus citations


    The Student Projects Involving Rocket Investigation Techniques (SPIRIT) program is a long-term, experiential learning, project-based program for undergraduates at Penn State University. Students in 5 functional teams design and build the experiments, but also the structure and rocket systems of a scientific payload. The payloads that emerge from three years of student work show extraordinary creativity. The scientific results, however, have been uneven. This suggests that the highest value of the program is in its educational impact and in the opportunity it provides for development of sounding rocket instruments and research techniques. In this paper, we review the goals and the results of the program from a teaching perspective. We report the results of past and ongoing assessments and present conclusions as to the value and limitations of the program. The SPIRIT program has been popular with students and the university administration. It is relatively inexpensive to run. The willingness of NASA Wallops Island personnel to mentor young students has been critical to the educational success of the program.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)71-76
    Number of pages6
    JournalEuropean Space Agency, (Special Publication) ESA SP
    Issue number590
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 19 2005
    Event17th ESA Symposium on European Rocket and Balloon Programmes and Related Research - Sandefjord, Norway
    Duration: May 30 2005Jun 2 2005


    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Aerospace Engineering
    • Space and Planetary Science

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