Stevens Helps 500 Budding Astronauts Have a Blast at Bayer’s Alka-Seltzer® Rocket Contest at Liberty Science Center


Stevens teamed up with Bayer HealthCare and Liberty Science Center (LSC) on a fun and educational science and engineering event on June 8, 2013 when they challenged 500 middle school students from across New Jersey in a contest to build and launch high-flying rockets fueled by Alka-Seltzer®, a Bayer product.

Dr. Mae Jemison, the country’s first African-American female astronaut in space, served as emcee, which saw teams of students using their science literacy, teamwork and critical thinking skills to construct rockets out of film canisters, water and Alka-Seltzer, which flew more than 15 feet into the air.

Jemison –   Bayer’s longtime national spokesperson for its Presidential award-winning Making Science Make Sense® initiative who recently launched 100 Year Starship®, a mission to accelerate scientific and technology innovation by pursuing human interstellar flight – spoke emphatically to the students about the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in 21st century society.

“These students are America’s next generation of inventors and innovators – aerospace engineers, astronauts and scientists – something they cannot fully realize without the kind of quality STEM education that builds a foundation to support and encourage ongoing science learning,” said Jemison.

The rocket contest was the latest component of  Bayer HealthCare’s Making Science Make Sense® program. The event was organized in collaboration with two partner organizations – the Liberty Science Center, a 300,000-square-foot learning center in Jersey City, N.J., and the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens, a leader in STEM education and research.

“Liberty Science Center strives to expose learners of all ages to the excitement of science and technology,” said Bryan Blaney, LSC’s Director of Guest Engagement. “This program offered a great opportunity for kids to get hands-on experience in the classroom and at home, culminating with a fun competition here at LSC.”

CIESE at Stevens was responsible for developing a comprehensive professional development curriculum for teachers at the 22 participating schools and conducting a series of workshops which instructed them how to use the well-known Alka-Seltzer rocket experiment as a STEM educational tool. CIESE staff members also helped judge contest.

“The Alka-Seltzer rocket project can be used as a vehicle to teach higher level concepts about chemical reactions, Newton’s Law, and other topics in physics, chemistry and engineering,” said Adam Scribner, CIESE science professional development specialist.

Alka-Seltzer rockets work when Alka-Seltzer reacts with water to produce carbon dioxide, which creates enough pressure inside the canister to pop off the lid and propel the rocket upward. Before competing against rival schools at the June 8 event, each class ran experiments to determine the right combination of water and Alka-Seltzer to use as “fuel” and the optimal length of the fuselage and shape of the nose cone for the rocket to launch to the highest possible height.

Philip G. Vroom School from Bayonne, N.J. achieved the highest rocket launch of 15.3 feet, winning the $1000 grand prize. The second place prize of $750 and the third place prize of $500 went to Wallace Primary School in Hoboken, N.J. and Clifton Avenue Grade School in Lakewood, N.J., respectively.

“As a science-based company with a rich history supporting experiential science education and fostering science literacy for all students, Bayer’s Alka-Seltzer Rocket Contest is the latest demonstration of this long-standing commitment,” said William B. Dodero, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care. “The contest shows students, teachers and parents just how fun and exciting science is and also reinforces science as something that is all around us in everyday life – whether it’s in the kitchen or medicine cabinet, the schoolyard, science center or the launch pad.”

As the 21st century unfolds, Stevens has evolved its mission and focus to meet key societal needs, including innovative approaches to STEM teaching and learning at every level to expand and prepare the nation’s technical workforce. Through programs like the Alka-Seltzer rocket contest, CIESE plays a leading role in this effort.

“At Stevens, we call ourselves The Innovation University®, which means we live where industry, academics and research meet, so the Alka-Seltzer Rocket Contest is right up our alley,” said CIESE Director Arthur Camins. “We are proud to partner on this project and to play an integral role both in the curriculum design and the professional development sessions provided to all the teachers involved.”

Photos courtesy of Bayer HealthCare