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Pinoys engage in ‘rocket science’ that literally holds water

/ 12:02 AM February 28, 2015

You don’t have to be a lab gown-donning rocket scientist to be a rocketeer.

Certainly, even Pinoy high school kids can come up with their own high-flying rockets, and not burn their houses (literally) and their pockets (figuratively) while doing it, even on a world-class level.

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Reniel Rosacena and Nur Alan Paulo Barte II, both 16 and seniors at Palawan State University Laboratory High School, and their classmates were tasked by their science teacher Phabe Tabucalde to build a water rocket using just an empty water bottle and a cap, pen, cardboards and a few other knickknacks. When the rocket was built, they were then told to aim it at a soccer goal (of course, the field was cleared of other people). They hit the mark, and with that, they represented their school in a province-wide water rocket competition.

Rosacena and Barte were naturals, beating 38 other students from 18 schools in Palawan during the World Space Week water rocket competition held in the province from Oct. 4 to 10 last year. With the feat, they rocketed (pun intended) to the Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum Water Rocket Event (APRSAF-WRE) at the Nihon University Funabashi Campus in Chiba Prefecture in Japan, held Nov. 27 to Dec. 1.

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Participants

The competition was participated in by 72 students, 31 teachers, and supervised by 17 observers from as many countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Unfortunately, Rosacena and Barte’s rocket fell short of earning the top spots during the competition. Malaysian student Nor Hafizi bin Shaharudin bagged first prize, Japan’s Taiki Fukumoto and Tomomi Yoshimura were second and third, respectively.

Nevertheless, the Pinoy tandem led by Rosacena still had reason to keep their gazes up, as Juan Antonio Tuazon, promotions unit head and project leader of the Philippine Space Science Education Program (under the Department of Science and Technology’s Science Education Institute), said that Rosacena actually finished fourth, “literally inches away from the third placer.”

The 22nd APRSAF-WRE will be held in Bali, Indonesia, tentatively set in the first week of December 2015.

The Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute sent Rosacena, Barte and Tabucalde to Japan to compete in the APRSAF-WRE. Tuazon and Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, Philippine Space Science Education Program’s focal person, accompanied the team.

Sese is also president of Regulus SpaceTech, chair of Southeast Asian Young Astronomers Collaboration, and National Point of Contact for Space Generation Advisory Council (in support of UN Program on Space Applications).

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Inquirer Science and Health saw the team building their rockets at the Nihon University in November.

Water rocket project

“The water rocket was our project in physics during the first grading. We didn’t expect our school to receive an invitation to compete in the competition. Reniel’s group garnered the highest reach of the rocket. My group came in second,” recalled Barte.

Rosacena said it was their first time to venture out of the country. Rosacena is taking a serious look at computer science in college, while Barte plans to take up, you guessed it, petroleum engineering in college.

“We didn’t have an idea how to make a rocket, let alone a launcher, so we googled the Net, and figured out our own designs. The shape of water bottles in the Philippines is not the same as the ones on the Net,” said Tabucalde with a laugh.

The World Space Week is an annual celebration held from Oct. 4 to 10. Tuazon said that the Philippines is an active participant of this celebration. DOST-SEI celebrated its WSW in Palawan.

Tuazon said: “It was in 2004 that the SEI first launched the first Philippine Space Science Education Program. Since we have the mandate to promote science and technology to the Filipino youth and popularize space science as a field of study, there arises the competition. The highlight is the water rocket competition of the entire Philippine Space Science Education.”

He explained that in 2014, all Philippine representatives to the competition came from Palawan, as it was the host province for the WSW in the country.

Does one have to have high grades in physics to be chosen to compete in the water rocket competition?

Tuazon replied: “We do not choose the students for their grades. We would like to promote space science for everyone. Everyone can learn science.”

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TAGS: health and science, Palawan state university laboratory high school, rockets, water, world space week
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