Students respond with excitement as a bottle rocket explodes leaving a trail of water in its wake.

FORT BENNING, Ga. - It wasn't exactly rocket science, at least not with all the nuts and bolts - but it was close. Jack Frederick, principal systems engineer with Raytheon Company, explained how rockets, missiles and similar technology function during a MathMovesU presentation Monday at Faith Middle School.

More than 200 eighth-graders and science club students learned about elements of experimentation such as safety, observation, accuracy and environmental responsibility. They learned that even great inventions, like the microwave oven, conceived by Raytheon engineer Percy Spencer, can sometimes involve mistakes.

"He was walking in front of a radar one day with a candy bar in his pocket and the candy bar melted," Frederick said. "Percy Spencer realized he'd made a mistake, which he capitalized on. He put the popcorn plate in front of the radar, flipped on the radar switch and the popcorn began to pop."

The company has since made billions of dollars selling microwaves, thanks to the efforts of a man who achieved only a seventh-grade education.

"That means any of you could invent something to make a billion dollars. I want you to understand how obtainable that is," Frederick said.

It's the third year Frederick has visited the school for MathMovesU, a Raytheon initiative designed to inspire middle school students with an interest in math and science.

"It comes out of a need for our community to emphasize science and math in the schools," said Julio Gonzalez, Faith principal. "We're trying to get kids interested in the scientific world. Who knows' One of those kids may be one of our scientists in the future."

The program aligns with a unit taught in the eighth grade about rockets and the science behind them, Gonzalez said.

"It's a national priority because we have a real shortfall of people moving into those fields. It's going to affect our nation," said Frederick, who is currently working on the engine for the Patriot missile. "The other thing is I really focus on kids in the Southeast where I grew ... because it was an opportunity for me to get an education and achieve success. And they can do at least as much as I've done."

After the presentation, students put their knowledge into practice by launching water bottle rockets outside the school.

"To see how it shot off that high up, it was really cool," said 13-year-old Tiffanie Verhine, who enjoys learning about science and wants to be nurse when she grows up.

Fourteen-year-old Charles Bell said his favorite part of the presentation was seeing pictures and videos of equipment, especially "gadgets the military gets to use to protect this world."

"My dad is Armor. He talks about all the guns that go on the humvees and every once in a while he talks about the missiles that can go on there - pretty amazing," Charles said.

"Everything deals with math and science ... medicine ... construction ... no matter where you are in the world. It means instead of just doing problems, you get hands-on."

For trivia games, math help, scholarship opportunities and more visit Sponsored by Raytheon, the website is free and geared toward middle school students.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16