Semco are graphite suppliers to many businesses, but one of our favorite roles is supplier to high school science programs. This is a small but, to us, very important part of our business: we provide material either free of charge or at greatly reduced prices to educational programs that require small quantities of graphite. When our future scientists determine there is a graphite solution to a rocketry problem or other engineering project, Semco is happy to search our inventory for any graphite pieces appropriate for the task.
One high school Semco partners with to deliver graphite material for student projects is Fredericksburg High School in Texas. Engineering students there use graphite to machine special nozzles for rockets designed to be tested over the speed of sound and fly over 100,000 ft. We recently heard from Andrew Matthes, an Engineering Instructor and the Career and Technology department chair at Fredericksburg who detailed for us the school’s engineering course of study and the rich experiences that come along with being a Fredericksburg High engineering student. Here is an excerpt of his letter to us:
“Students here at Fredericksburg High School in Fredericksburg, Texas have the opportunity to partake in a four-year engineering pathway, from fledgling freshman to college- and research-ready seniors. Through the four years they experience problem-solving, long term projects in various fields of engineering, gain proficiency in AutoCAD, and some venture into an extra year for AutoDesk's Inventor drafting and development skills. Following the first two years, they learn how to model in MS Excel hybrid rocket propulsion from scratch, gruel through learning LabVIEW culminating in 3D printing a miniature teststand, develop the code to control the testing and acquire data, and spend an entire semester designing and developing a high-powered hybrid rocket to break the speed of sound while carrying a scientific payload. During their senior year they design and develop from scratch a sounding rocket with the mission to reach 80,000 to 100,000 ft. that they will test at White Sands Missile Range. Students are also responsible for running a hybrid propulsion teststand. This endeavor, which has been sponsored through NASA funding for over fifteen years, has enabled the students to learn research skills beyond anything they would otherwise encounter in a high school environment. Combine that with designing every component, of a rocket and you’ve got kids with serious industry skills.”
As former engineer students ourselves, many of us at Semco marvel at the opportunities offered to student at schools like Fredericksburg High. More than that, we marvel at what these young people, given excellent instruction and access to quality materials, can accomplish. In his letter to us, Andrew went on to list the industry skills that students in his school’s program graduate with. Here are just a few examples of those skills: designing and manufacturing the primary, black powder-operated piston valve for nitrous injection; communicating with supply companies; hands-on machine shop experience; coordinating with shop engineers and management concerning materials, scheduling, and machining processes; presenting Critical Design Reviews with professional, industry engineers; and managing a tight budget. And the list goes on.
Semco recognizes the critical role that high schools play in inspiring and teaching the next generation of engineers. Thus, we are proud to be graphite suppliers to schools like Fredericksburg High School. If your school has a rocketry club or an advanced engineering program and you give to your students a problem with a graphite solution, let Semco know. We’ll get the pieces you need and we’ll make sure it fits in your budget.