City Rail Link's Rocketman
It might seem a long flight of fancy from the pages of the Elton John songbook to the playing fields of Pasadena Intermediate at Pt Chevalier in Auckland, but it’s one journey City Rail Link Ltd’s Isaac Devanney-Bray has taken easily.
While Elton John only sang about Rocketman, Isaac is one in real life – sort of!
Isaac is an engineer for Auckland’s City Rail Link project. He and his friend and fellow engineer Josh Ackers from Calibre Consulting have been sharing their passion for the profession with a classroom of children at Pasadena.
Once a week over a six-week period, Isaac and Josh taught the children a subject they found quite a blast - how to build and launch their own rockets.
“It’s been a lot of fun, the children are very passionate about getting their models to fly and for me it’s been rewarding sharing what I know with them,” Isaac says.
It was as simple as ABC really. All the children needed were some basic lessons from Isaac and Josh about aerodynamics and Newton’s three laws of physics – the foundation for classical mechanics – and one large plastic soft drink or water bottle modified with wings and a cone, water for “fuel”, and air pressure out on the school’s sports field that had been converted temporarily to a launch pad.
While not matching NASA’s technical standards, lift-off from the Pasadena launch pad was no less serious. Children in each launch team had assigned roles – Chief Engineer, Chief Scientific Office and the like – wearing high viz jackets and safety glasses was a must, and there was a careful countdown before the trigger was pulled to “fire” the air pressure into the rocket for lift off.
A fun and practical way to learn, had its serious side. Isaac and Josh were part of a programme organised by the professional body, Engineering NZ, to try to encourage more children to consider a career in one of profession’s many disciplines.
“What we’re trying to do is to get children to consider the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths. There’s a big shortage of engineers, New Zealand needs a lot more of them, and we hope we can inspire a few from our class in the right direction,” says Isaac.
Talking of the right direction, the record flight from the school launch pad was close to 80 metres. You could say, one small step from Pasadena might just become a giant one for New Zealand.