BP America Relaunches Physics Challenge

January 15, 2009

Nearly 1,500 Houston Independent School District high school math and science students will be learning from astronauts as they participate through Jan. 16 in the award winning BP Physics Challenge.


The BP Physics Challenge allows HISD students to participate in several day-long events that bring high school physics and math students together in a fun learning atmosphere at Space Center Houston.  Students will learn about physics as they estimate the effects of gravity and lauch rockets toward targets; students also will learn about the concept of weightlessness from an astronaut that has flown in space. 


“The need for future scientists and engineers is great and this event is a powerful way to demonstrate science at work,” said Frank Hernandez, BP vice president for Government & Public Affairs. Hernandez, other BP employees and NASA employees will serve as mentors throughout each day.


Individual high school teams can participate in a rocket competition that is held behind the Saturn V rocket at Johnson Space Center.  The students design and build their rockets to carry a payload to climb as high as possible. The rocket has to return to ‘earth’ unharmed. 


Each participating school can have as many teams competing as it can enlist, with each team consisting of three to six students.  Medals are given to winning teams.


Like NASA, the students will have a certain “window” to launch, about five minutes.  Exceeding the time allotted will amount in a disqualification from the competition.


Teams were provided with a $150 grant to offset the cost of supplies to construct the rocket. Late last year, another 300 Galveston County students from Hitchcock, Texas City and La Marque participated in the program.


The BP Physics Challenge will culminate with a presentation by former astronauts Charles Bolden and Jim Reilly. Bolden is a retired US Marine Corps. officer who served from 1981 to 1994 as an astronaut in the United States’ space program, logging over 680 hours in space. Reilly is a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy reserves and flew on three different space shuttle missions. Reilly has logged more than 853 hours in space, and took five spacewalks totaling more than 31 hours. 


The BP Physics Challenge is a partnership between BP America, Houston Independent School District, Galveston County schools and Space Center Houston.  As an educational program, it gives teachers and students a way to engage in exciting, real-world learning activities. BP has sponsored the Physics Challenge for four years.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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