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Record Number of High School Seniors Explore Interests in STEM Fields at ‘Operation Catapult’ Program
July 24, 2012
A record number of high-school seniors from throughout the world
have taken steps toward careers in science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM) through the
Operation Catapult program.
||Examining Aerodynamics: A
team of four students closely watch a wind tunnel test in the Rotz
Laboratory during the July session of this year's Operation
A total of 310 students from 36 states and five international
countries spent two and a half weeks in one of the oldest and most
successful summer enrichment experiences in the STEM fields. This
year's program enrollment is 10 percent higher than previous years.
The second of two summer sessions continues through Wednesday, July
For 46 years, Operation Catapult has enabled students who have
completed their junior year of high school to participate in
hands-on engineering projects and experience a slice of campus
life. There are also plant trips to learn about innovative
practices at high-tech Indiana companies; visits to engineers,
scientists and computer programmers; and lectures by Rose-Hulman
professors on a variety of STEM issues.
This summer's projects featured biofuels distillation, wind
tunnel testing, using rapid prototyping, studying about alcohol
fuel gels, creating computer games and Frisbee throwing devices,
and making micro-controlled vehicles.
"From the beginning, Operation Catapult's goal has been to give
high-school students their first experience in applied
engineering," stated Mechanical Engineering Professor Patsy
Brackin, Ph.D., who has been directing the program since 2005. "We
throw students into engineering and give them a push in the right
John Beutter of Los Altos, Calif., joined three students in
developing an intricate pulley and belt system that utilized one
motor to power two fans for lifting and moving a model
"The system was revolutionary, a first-of-its-kind," stated
Beutter. "When we heard that powering two fans off one motor hadn't
been done, we just had to do it."
Assisting in the project, completed during the June session,
were Ivel Lee Collins of Fairfax, Va., David Richey of Zionsville,
Ind., and Lance Clodfelter of Roachdale, Ind.
"I wanted a summer experience in which I could build something
cool," stated Collins. "I found the experience very
||Working Together: Jean Toro of Ecuador and
Melissa LaChance of
Park Hills, Mo., make conclusions on their wind tunnel project
was completed during Operation Catapult's July session.
||Up, Up And Away: Creating a smart Ping-Pong
training device during this summer's Operation
Catapult program were (bottom, from left) C.J.
Miller, John Kirschenheiter, Thomas Visnack and
Julie Martin of Singapore used wind and water tunnels to study
the aerodynamic characteristics of flapping wings. Assisting in
this discovery were Alexandra Ullberg of Flossmoor, Ill., and
Brianna Hibbler of Fishers, Ind.
"It was nice to learn something together," stated Martin, who
had never used a wind tunnel. "I now feel that I actually know what
I can do in engineering."
Meanwhile, Charles Angelastro of Newbury, Calif., referred to
this year's Operation Catapult experience as "nerdvana." He joined
four students in testing failure in balsa wood bridge trusses.
"This was an incredible experience," he said. "I came into
Operation Catapult against my will, kicking and screaming. My
parents thought it would be good for me. Instead of this, I wanted
to spend two and a half weeks with my friends back home. At the
end, I ended up spending a great time with dozens of new friends
with who I have so much in common."
For the second straight summer, the program has an international
flair as visitors from Huazhong University of Science and
Technology's QiMing College in Wuhan, China served as technical
mentors for several projects. Rose-Hulman is working with the
institution to develop a program similar to Operation Catapult in
||Having Fun With Computers: Learning the Python
language to create a Pac-Man type computer game were (from left)
Jackie Preston, Abigail Anderson, Christine Pouw and Eleanor
||Floating Their Boat: The team of (from
left) Ben Kunst, Paul Dunaway, Christian Hsu and Shai
Sabaroche created a high-speed autonomous boat during Operation
Catapult's July session.
"We have a program that's unique and growing in popularity.
We're hoping to address the high demand for college graduates with
backgrounds in STEM careers," stated Brackin.
Admission to the Operation Catapult program is highly selective
with academic requirements that are similar to those required for
admission to Rose-Hulman as a high-school graduate. Students must
have completed three years of math and one year of chemistry or
A large majority of students attending Operation Catapult select
to major in STEM areas at colleges throughout the world.
Rose-Hulman's record-breaking 615 freshman class for 2012-13
includes 93 graduates from last summer's program.
Learn more about Rose-Hulman's Operation