Transcript: Space4U podcast, Rebekah Hyatt & Adlena Jacobs
Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team
Hello, I’m Carah Barbarick with the Space Foundation. And you’re listening to the Space4U podcast. Space4U is designed to tell the stories of the amazing people who make today’s space exploration possible. Today. We are joined by Rebekah Hyatt from Systems Go and Adlena Jacobs from Sunnyvale High School.
Rebekah Hyatt is the program director for Systems Go, an education not for profit that provides a STEM curriculum for 80 high schools in five states. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas woman’s university and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University.
She taught science and engineering in the Dallas area for 15 years during her last seven years in the classroom, she taught the Systems Go curriculum there. She saw firsthand the transforming effect it had on students’ lives. Adlena Jacobs graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and math and a master’s degree in higher education administration.
She has been teaching for 12 years and is currently the STEM coordinator at Sunnyvale High School in Sunnyvale, Texas. She is a dedicated educator that believes providing our students today with intellectual tools to develop a better and brighter future for our next generation. Thank you both for joining today to share more about Systems Go.
Thank you, Carah. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you. I mentioned in your background information that both of you are teachers, but I also mentioned STEM. Can one of you tell me what STEM actually stands for science, technology, engineering and math. You Rebekah. So that for our listeners that are not familiar with some of our education speak.
Adlena you are the STEM coordinator at your high school. What exactly does that entail? Well, I developed the program for 9th through 12th grade and our engineering pathway. So I basically direct the students of getting their four years of STEM education and the CTE pathway to see what programs fit with our students, so that they are prepared for the industry when they are coming out of high school.
Can they take different pathways then? Yes. Whenever they come into their freshman year, they have the opportunity to choose a multidisciplinary pathway, which they can go into STEM or to something else. Um, but most of them, uh, right out of middle school, like they sort of know exactly what they want. We have a really strong middle school STEM program as well.
So a lot of them know exactly once they leave middle school, that they want to be into the STEM program. Excellent. Sounds like you guys are really training them up from the younger grades. So Rebekah, you two have a background in teaching. You taught high school, is that right? Yes. And what did you teach when you were in high school?
I started the small district. So when you’re at a small district, similar to what Atlanta is right now, you teach many different things or several different things. So I taught everything from biology to physics, to integrated physics and chemistry and DataMine physiology, and then engineering, you can cover the whole gamut.
Nice. So then what made you leave and go to Systems Go instead of staying in the classroom? Well, like you said, I taught this for seven years and I watched it transform kids. It was incredible to see their confidence level change in their math skills, in their speaking skills, in their problem-solving skills because of the methods that we teach through the class.
It’s different for many of the classrooms. So they were getting skills that they were taking into other disciplines in another classrooms. And I saw that take hold. And so when the founding director retired and there was the position opened up, threw my hat in the ring because I thought, you know, I want to be a part of this program continuing to expand and grow.
Some, it sounds to me like you both have a pretty big passion for STEM education and for the students themselves, what were you looking for? That the traditional classroom really didn’t provide? The Systems Go really does provide when I saw it first presented to me, Brett Williams, the founding director was doing a presentation in fair park to South Dallas.
And I saw him at there talking about it. It struck me that the kids have to work. Really hard to make their rocket happen, to get to launch, to prove mathematically because there’s no kids, there’s no instructions. They they’re given a basic foundation of the physics applied and then they have to take that and do something with it.
So it’s a lot of work, but it’s so much fun for the kids. I mean, it’s rockets with it being so much fun and it being their rocket, something that they are designing and developing the ownership. Took over and totally, they didn’t realize that they were working as hard as it work. If that makes sense. They are so engrossed in so involved in the day or have bought in so heavily that they are there at seven o’clock in the morning, wanting to work on it and wanting to finish it.
And they stopped by at any point. I mean, that’s awesome. What other class truly does that in high school? Agreed. Yeah. Whenever, um, first introduced to Systems Go, I was selected to be a part of this space center, seek crew, and I’m still am affiliated with them and they had a conference. There was a session where you can go and talk to all the vendors.
And I saw system go, who talked to me, was a student. And they took, like, they told me everything that they were doing, they show me their rocket and I was like, you built this massive rocket. He said, yeah, I’m like what? And he told me all about it and how intrigued he was with it kind of just opened my eyes because the teacher didn’t say anything.
He just said, hi, how are you doing? Which was great. You know, but what really caught me was how the students directed the conversation and he knew exactly the parts of the rocket, how they develop the rocket, just him embracing the whole. Project. And he knew the ins and outs of everything. And the teacher just said, the students did it.
They go on a competition and you know, you can do this with a big district or a small district. It didn’t, it didn’t matter. The students directed their, their progress, which may mean open my eyes to where, Oh yeah, that’s what I want my students to do because I was already doing that. So this is go, I started to really do the research.
One of the Boeing representatives. Talk to me about it and send me to a breakfast. And I felt Rebekah, she was so excited about it. I was like, man, I really got to get there. I really got to get this. She’s excited about it. And she brought it to the level by K I was, I was in your shoes. And I know that this didn’t work and I’ve, you know, she’s told me that this can work and I worked in her classroom and she see the benefit that the kids get out of it as the, what, how it was so influential to the student’s lives afterwards.
So a lot of the students being involved with massive partnership programs and internship programs, basic programs. Boeing sponsorships and grants before this system. So just really intrigued me how much the industry was involved. I hear both of you talking about it really is the student ownership and their own drive within the project that really caught both of you and intrigued both of you.
Yeah, well, in, in a lot of other classrooms, they’re just being fed information. There’s no real purpose to them doing anything with it. There’s no real connection to anything outside that classroom. And this brought in every other discipline, they have to speak, they have to do the math, they have to write.
And it brings in all of those things that they use every single day without realizing it and tied it into launching a rocket. It answers that question that students always ask of. When am I ever going to have to use this all together more, um, with the rocket involved?
Yes, he does. Well, Rebekah, can you tell us a little bit more about the origins of it? I know you mentioned that founding teacher, Brett Williams, but really what was his grand vision? And then what is the overarching mission of Systems Go today? So Brett Williams, he was a marine biologist and he would have engineers come in, fresh out of college, people with engineering degrees or people that have been practicing for a while.
And he would give him a problem that he had. And check on him a couple of days later and they hadn’t really done anything. And they would actually ask him for a set of instructions on how to solve the problem. I’ll never forget. He looked at me and he told me that he looked at them and would say, if I had the instructions, I don’t need you.
And it was, it was that notion of, oh my goodness, you have an engineering degree. And yet you’re asking for a step by step one, two, three on how to solve a problem. And that’s an issue, you know, that’s, that’s a case of people having all this book smart, but not being able to really do anything with it. So he came into education and he and his wife moved from Galveston to Fredericksburg and he came into education.
He did a principles of technology class. He was a marine biologist, so he was not an aerospace engineer, but he asked that first class what they wanted to do as a hands-on project. And they were the ones that said, we want to build a rocket. So that’s where the rockets came from, was the kids in that very first class.
And the, the mission of that through the next several years, there were people here in town that. Decided that it was too good to keep here. They formed a 501c3 and got the curriculum in a state where it could be replicated and teachers trained so that it, you know, other schools could do it. And the mission of Systems Go is to impact the workforce by producing innovators, people that they understand that failure is part of the learning process.
That they know not to stop there. We want to produce people that are equipped with the skills to walk through the fear of the unknown, because the fear of the unknown can be totally crippling to many people. But if you give them skills to walk through that, regardless of what industry they go into, they’re going to be more valuable for their employer.
Yes. And to see failure, not a problem, but, uh, just an interesting step along the way. Exactly. Exactly. You know, and if we, if we positively impact our workforce in that way, then that has a ripple effect in, in positively affecting our national security, our way of life, our standard of living. I mean, that’s all tied to our workforce development.
Yes. And our ability to innovate for whatever comes next. Yes. So then how you in that mission, how do you integrate that into your teacher training classes? Both from the views saying that’s not typical in a classroom, that’s not a typical classroom set up. So how do you train the teachers to then train their, their students to be able to do that?
Well, we take a week to go through an entire year curriculum. So it’s kind of like information with a fire hose through the week, but I try to teach the people that are, that I’m training. I try to treat them the way that I want them to treat their kids by asking more questions, not giving answers, not giving it.
Well, no, it’s actually this, but. It’s a Socratic method of questioning and where you say, so what makes you think that? Did you look at this or focusing them back on the problem, their goal, if you will. And by doing that, you model that method of teaching and they experienced the frustration that the kids experience within the experience that it’s really cool to launch the rocket and they get it built.
And Adlena can talk to you about her gen three, if, if she would like to, because there is frustration in that, but that frustration have you talked to people that have done recent research in how the brain connects to, you know, how it can enhance the learning process. If you connect an emotional component to the learning, that’s really good because then it sticks more.
The frustration is part of that emotional connection to the learning. Now you don’t want that frustration to the point of they totally quit and they shut down. But some of that frustration is really good. Adlena, can you agree that you’ve felt that in the classroom while you’ve been getting the training?
Yeah, I, I told her, I said this morning, Oh my gosh, Rebekah. But it was like venting out the scenes, man. I’m trying to get this. I’m trying to figure it out. What I told her yesterday was that I liked the way that she just allowed me to ask the question.
And that’s what the students are doing. Me being a student in the teacher training. I can see how the kids. We’ll start asking the questions and we that’s what we want them to do. We want them to ask questions because as teachers, we talk a million words within what, five, 10 minutes in a traditional classroom, and then a project based if it’s draining, especially, it’s just, you’re asking the questions.
Okay. So how do I find a seat? That’s under pressure again. And she’ll just go back and review like a baby. You remember when we did this? And when we got into our, our gen three and going through the rock stand program, and I was just like, Oh my gosh, this is a new program. Um, yes, I’m used to the catch of what I’ve learned in college, but when I went to Roxanne and was like, Whoa, wait a minute.
This is a little bit different. I have to do another learning curve. But then I was willing to do it. And I was like, okay, I’m going to try to get this right. When I can see my whole rocket trying to reach the 2,200 feet. And it did just there. And I’m like, thank you. And everything like, Oh my God. And I’m here after hours out. Still can’t get it. I’m so frustrated. I cannot get this.
And I’m sitting here yesterday, Rebekah she’s like, you’ve been here as long as she wants to. And I was like, I don’t want to sit here too long effort. I took it home and I see my students doing then taking it home. And I’m the mirror. 11 o’clock last night on a Duke or simulation. It’s trying to figure it out. I’m like, what the heck went wrong?
And there’s no way of going into YouTube, but YouTube, some things. And we know that kids do that, but I didn’t do that part. I just try to figure it out myself. Like man, you know, I’m almost there, but I’m learning through doing. And I’m learning like, okay, oh, I need to shorten up the bottle too. Okay. I need to shorten up inner tube to make it reach the height that she wants us to get it to.
But what I really learned is when she gave her the time limit per your specs to start building your Denbury, and then I did what my students would do, but I didn’t realize I did that. I put dimensions on my rocket. Without even looking at what the materials I had. And I was like, God, I just, I told her not to do it. And I just…
But it was fun because you’re learning by doing and you are still wanting to do it and you see your partner over there going at it to like, okay, I need to give, I can be fair. And it’s not, it’s not necessarily competition. It’s like, man, you’re sitting there wanting to do it together, trying to get to the same goal together.
And I think the training part is learning while you’re doing it, but allowing yourself to have those failures and it’s okay. And I love hearing you talk about taking it home and thinking about it sort of assigning students homework. They’re just going to take it home on their own and be mulling over all of the things that the problems and the corrections and that’s pretty exciting to hear.
When are you going to go to bed? Just wait a minute. I gotta get this. I’m gonna try to do this one, one more simulation real quick. That’s awesome. So what do you think you’re most excited to bring back to the classroom?
All of it. I think the students will grow in this as an individual. It was more than just an engineering thing. I think it’s an individual. Like you’re, you’re growing for persistence in saying, okay, I can continue to do it. And I think that’s what we need to those tools for the kids. Even though you’re failing, keep going.
You will get there. I think just all of it, I can bring back all of the tools and the information she gives, how she lays it out. This version on this inquest, I’m just like, Oh wow, everything is just laid out for you. And you don’t really have to recreate something. I don’t have to recreate anything. She just gives it to you.
If, hey, this is your guide and the specifics you can be successful. That’s perfect. We haven’t gotten one semester yet.
Yes. We’re going to get into designing and doing some work with a rocket to take a one-pound payload a mile high. So that’s yet to come. I love it. Well, let’s talk about those rockets then, you know, we’re, we’ve been focusing mostly on the teacher training, but really the goal is to get kids, to launch rockets, have different goals.
So, Rebekah, what are the different goals that the students have for the different courses? So this level is the Stokowski level course, and it’s named after Constantine Stokowski. And the goal for this one is they are to design and build a rocket to take a one-pound payload, exactly one mile high. They have to have a viable recovery system in the rocket.
And the goal is to hit a mile, not to blow a mile, not to see how far. Over a mile, they can go, but actually to hit a mile, they have to prove that they’ve done, that we offer a banner that’s kind of a target plus or minus a hundred feet to gold banner plus or minus 250 feet to silver. And then 500 feet would be a bronze.
So that’s their goal. So they’re competing against a standard, not necessarily, you know, all the other kids that come to the launch, the next level is called the Oberth level. And that one, their goal is to take a rocket that they design and go transonic with it. But they have to stay under 13,000 feet. So it’s not a matter of just sticking a bigger motor in a tube.
They have a constraint of announcer to cutoff. They have to design or put into Excel. All of the math required to prove mathematically that they can take rocket to break the sound barrier under 13,000 feet and then recover it. So that’s the next level. And then the last level, about 10% of our, our schools do this one, it’s called our Goddard level class.
And their goal is to build a rocket to go 80 to a hundred thousand feet. And we launched those out at white sands, missile range, and those, wow. We require that every level use a hybrid motor system and that’s for safety. You know, nothing in the classroom is explosive. Everything’s completely inert. We load the knock, your socks side onsite, you know, at the various launch venue, so it’s completely safe, but we required that they use for the Stokowski and Oberg a Hypertech motor system. And in that Goddard level class, the kids, they design the nitrous oxide tank. They designed the injection system. They designed the fuel grain. It still has to be an ERT, but they port it, they design it.
They figure out how many ports it has, or it needs for them to get their mass flow rate. They design the nozzle, they haven’t machined. It’s from scratch. And those vehicles are like 20 feet long and they’re huge, but that’s a big, big project for them. Excellent. What’s a typical launch day like for the students.
Everybody arrives at six o’clock in the morning and whatever, uh, launch venue they choose. We’ve got three in Texas and then one in New Mexico and then white Chan’s what Sans has done a little bit differently, but our Stokowski and Oberth level launches. You know, a typical launch venue is anywhere from two to four days long and a specific site.
And so they choose a day and everybody, all the schools show up at one time. Now we will do some. Modifying to our normal schedule, this coming year with all of the social distancing and those necessary requirements. But normally all of the schools would show up at six o’clock in the morning, and we have a flight readiness review checklist that they have had in their possession for two months.
Ideally they would come ready to have that flight readiness review verified by one of our range safety officers. Now, if something comes up, if their center of mass or center pressure, if their stability is off, if their weight is not what it’s supposed to be, what they show it to be on their simulation, then they have time in stage two.
We call that stage two. Do to fix those issues because if it doesn’t match or closely match what they’ve simulated, then we really have no idea from a safety standpoint, what it’s going to do. So it’s not a match that, you know, what they’ve simulated or at least very closely. So after they get checked off and verified by a stage two range safety officer, we call them RSOs.
They go over to mission control. And we have stage three RSOs that load black powder charges into the rockets. At that point, the kids can’t handle them anymore. So the black powder charges are connected to the altimeters and those floor recovery system deployment. After they get loaded, they do some electrical checks on the altimeter and that circuitry and make sure that that’s all reacting the way it’s supposed to, that the altimeter comes on and says, okay, it’s armed and it’s not sending out any error codes.
Then it goes over to a holding table. When we have a rail empty, then one of our Systems Go, people were carrying, the kids can follow and they go down to the launchpad. The launchpad is about 500 feet away from mission control in the spectrum. Headers are often stuck behind mission control. So they go down and they put the rocket on the rail and have their picture taken with the rocket on the rail because that’s.
Get your picture with her. We do that. We take a picture, then they leave. Then our trained pad people will do one last pressure test on the tank to make sure that you know, that they can load nitrous oxide into the tank and there’s no leaks. And then they go vertical with it. They turn on the altimeter once that is done and it has cycled through.
And then. Giving the signal that it’s ready, then we load nitrous oxide. We launch it. We have four to six recovery teams strategically placed around the launch site and some spotters, they all call in ASMIS. We have six launch rails, and once we launched six of them or five of them, however many we have ready, then the recovery teams go retrieve the rockets.
We bring them back to mission control. We make sure that there’s no black powder charges left on them. We call that same thing, the rocket, and then we give it back to the kids and have the kids do an interview with our livestream section over there next to mission control. Wow. Just hearing that Adlena, are you excited about your students being able to do this?
I am too excited. I can just see their face, like, wow. They’ve never done that. Been like this before. I’m just like, man, I can’t wait, but I’ve wished all situation we’re in was not really happening. Hopefully by the time of sprint and calm things were kind of settled down and we’d get to really enjoy putting these things in the air.
Yes. Yes. The whole process just sounds so much more legitimate and real life than taking your, your little stomp rocket out to the football field at the high school and launching it there.
I mean, they, they only get one shot to launch them. So it’s not like, well, it only went up 25 feet and you can do it again. You get a shot to launch it. So they’ve worked for four or five months on it, and then they get one shot to launch it. It’s tense. Have you had any students that have really surprised you with what they’ve created or come up with their rockets?
Oh, yes. You get all kinds of interesting designs that come through. I didn’t personally see this one, but there was one group that designed the triangular rocket. It was wood and it was triangular and it went up a few hundred feet and came down. You just crashed into little pieces. There’s been some that have used PVC as a body frame.
That’s not advice, but as a gesture, that makes it difficult because you’re like, okay, that’s not a good idea. But it’s not your rocket as a teacher. If it passes the safety requirements, then you should let them do it. But at the end of that, the critical part of their R&D loop is that post-mission analysis.
You know, they’ve got to go back and explain what they did and why and the results and what happened and how that, how their results is connected to their design or their build process. A couple of years ago, a group showed up with tubular, fin rocket, and there was only two of them. It was very interesting and there was a link, two of them.
And. The stage three RSO didn’t want to put charges. He was very concerned with how it would fly. So I went over and talked to the kids and. I had never seen anything like that before, but I was so impressed with how the kids explained their design to me. And they had it simulated wonderful in rock SIM.
That was great. But they went into this really fabulous in-depth explanation of why people were concerned with the flight, why they thought it would work. Why it only had two fans. They were very impressive in their explanation of it. And so I looked at their simulation and I looked at their flight readiness review and it ticked all of our safety requirements.
So I put it on the rail and we launched it and it was beautiful and won a silver banner. Yeah. It was like 120 feet outside of going exactly. 5,280 feet. It was a beautiful flight. It was amazing. They’re all experimentally, fickle. So you never know what they’re going to do when they launch. And we do everything we possibly can to make sure everybody is safe, but just because it looks different from something we’ve never seen doesn’t mean it’s not going to work right.
That out of the box thinking can actually lead to some pretty new innovations. We want them to not be confined to a box. It’s really awesome when they come. Um, really cool idea. You know, you don’t want them to just pull something out of thin air and say, Oh, I think it’ll work because I Googled it. But if they can back it up with some math and some solid physics concepts that I say, let it go.
Brilliant. The two of you, would you have wanted to be a student that had a teacher do Systems Go in your classroom? Oh yes. Oh, for sure. For sure. I was telling them yesterday the same thing. I wish I had something like this and I didn’t have it. Yeah. I didn’t either. I’d have been all over it. That creative piece to innovation, I think really drives kids.
And it’s very exciting to them. You know, if you think about it, if all you have is smart, you get really, truly innovative. There is inherently a creative piece in true innovation. They are doing things that no one else has done before. And if you don’t have an imagination, To imagine things that haven’t been done before then, have you, do you expect to build them or tell somebody else how to build them?
I mean, that creative piece is crucial. Yes. Well, before we close out today, do you have any advice for teachers who are really looking to start this project in their school? So both of you actually went through that whole process of, I see it. I want it now I’m going to do it. So if you have any advice for teachers and Rebekah being on the other side, if you have advice for teachers, I’d love to hear it.
Just do it. I think as teachers we get so caught up with. Okay. What the district wants you to do or what the state wants you to do? Five Ford. I mean, have convinced our school that, Hey, I see this kid, you know, benefit their curiosity and take, you know, our STEM program into other levels. This is just the start.
So I’m just putting the gas in the vehicle. And this is go, is going to make this 10 program running the feather and fly even further to other high states. I don’t know yet, but I know that this has started, and I know that I’m starting and I know that the kids will appreciate that somebody has started and wanted to do it for them because sometimes you can sit there for the log and say, Oh, I wish I coulda woulda.
And you never did anything. And you never knew, but you see everybody else doing all these amazing things, just do it. If you fail, you fail. But you know, one thing is that the kids don’t see that you failed. They’re seeing that man, is she starting something? Or he starting something and I have an opportunity to do something and necessarily doing you’re giving the kids opportunity that.
You may not have when he was in school, but giving them the opportunity to be creative and take their curiosity to more innovative levels than your community has ever seen take flight and just go, you’re modeling exactly what you’re wanting them to do, which is a beautiful thing. I mean, I totally agree with Adlena saying, just do it.
I agree with that, but we’re, you know, we’re in an age where districts are very concerned with their state rank, their testing scores. And my response to that is one, all of our courses aligned to not only Texas state standards, but national standards. We aligned to courses in all of the sites that were in their engineering pathways.
We’re very cognizant of districts needing to make sure that our course aligns with what their state is requiring them to teach. We understand that in terms of the state testing, we’re not part of that state testing. I contend that if the kids in my classroom, if they are learning to think independently, if they’re learning to process information, if they’re learning to take a problem and then tear it down to its smallest parts, if they’re willing to take a word and pull out the root word and figure out what that word means based on context clues around it, how can that not.
Positively impact state testing scores. When I went to my school board and I said, if I’m teaching them critical thinking skills and teaching them how to not have to have a step-by-step explanation to every single problem that they see, how can they not do better on the SAT? Or whatever, you know, how can that not lead over or leak over into that?
And that’s what we well with the kids that were my question, and they were scoring better on the SAT and the act and in their algebra class and in their English class, it transfers over it’s really that cross-curricular benefit. You start to see it in those kids. Just hearing it makes me want to go back and be a student and gain those skills.
And well, you have to come out to the launch and talk to some of the kids.
The teacher that she talked to was Kirk Moore. I know a lot of his kids and I know how he does those conferences and he just pushes the kids out there and the kids love to talk about it. It’s really cool to see, to stand back and watch. Again, just another skill that you’re developing for them to stand in front of a stranger and tell them all about their rocket.
Yes. Thank you both for joining, joining today. I so enjoyed hearing all the things about Systems Go and thinking about just doing it. Like you said, Adlena, I’m excited to see how you’re really helping teachers develop the upcoming workforce and igniting tomorrow’s innovators. And that concludes this episode of the Space Foundation’s Space4U podcast.
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