-by Hope Calogero, Thunder Rocketry Club member
If you listened in on one of their team meetings, you might start to believe the Thunder Rocketry Club at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College can soar across the skyline with Batman-like superpowers.
The Thunder Rocketry Club has been accepted into NASA’s Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium First Nations Launch Tribal competition for the eighth time. The team will be creating a fiberglass replica of the Saturn V Rocket, eventually reaching about five feet in length. The team will travel to Kansasville, WI on April 19-21, 2018, and attempt to launch the high-powered rocket more than 3,000 feet in the air and have it safely return to the ground. As part of the contest, the team must first give a presentation on their rocket’s design and construction process before the actual launch day at the Richard Bong State Recreational Area.
“The Thunder Rocketry Club is all about having a good time, bringing rockets to competitions, introducing students to high-powered rockets,and having fun with other teams,” said Steve Highland, advisor of the Thunder Rocketry Club.
The 2017-2018 team members are all big fans of Batman. True to form, the team has named their rocket “Baturn V.” The club enjoys getting members together and going to North Branch, Minnesota, for test rocket launches.
This year’s team consists of current FDLTCC students Donald Lokken, Angela Martini, Stephanie Severin, Hope Calogero, and Ralph Tuck.
Donald is pursuing his Associate in Fine Arts degree. This is his second year in the Thunder Rocketry Club. “I have been waiting to join Rocketry club since high school,” said Donald. “I enjoy building rockets and launching them.” Donald is a survivor of brain cancer who loves animals and nature. He is also a blacksmith/welder, cosplayer, artist, violinist, Lego builder, video game master, master fan of Batman, and a hard worker. Donald’s favorite quotes are: “Time flies when you’re having fun,” and “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman then always be Batman.”
“Rocket Club was the best decision I ever made,” said team member Angela Martini. “It has led to my interest in NASA and aerospace.” Angela is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering or aerospace engineering. Angela was a part of the rocket team “Roaring Thunder” last year. Martini had the opportunity this fall semester to travel to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, to compete in a Mars Campaign competition through the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars. Angela is currently pursuing an undergraduate internship through NASA’s Lunar Planetary Institute in Houston, TX, or Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, in summer 2018.
Teammate Stephanie Severin is pursuing a degree in business management at FDLTCC. Stephanie has two children and over ten years of cosmetology experience. Severin joined the Rocketry club based on her favorite quote, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Stephanie also joined because she was told she could help paint the rocket.
“Rocketry club has awakened a passion in aerospace that I had forgotten existed,” said team member Hope Calogero. Hope is pursuing a degree in nursing and plans to work at St. Jude’s hospital or in a neonatal department. She is a single mom to four children and gets her motivation from her kids and from her favorite line, “I wanna try everything. I wanna try even if I fail.”  Hope was selected this year for the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholarship. Hope is designing a Mars rover mission for her final project and if selected, she will be given the opportunity to go to the NASA field station for a competition.
Ralph Tuck is pursuing a degree in engineering. Ralph is a great asset for the team this semester since he has been in the club for a few years. Ralph is also the only team member who is Level One High-powered Certified. Ralph built all the electronics for the team’s 2016 First Nation competition.
The club has another team called “Space Wye.” This team also applied for the AISES First Nations Launch competition but were turned down due to too many rockets being launched on launch day. However, the team plans to continue their attempt to 3D-print a nose cone and build a rocket that will make the longest descent in next year’s competition.
The Thunder Rocketry Club welcomes new recruits as more people will give more ideas for the current rocket as well as future rockets. Anyone can join the Thunder Rocketry Club and no experience is needed. Donald, Angela and Ralph are all experienced rocketeers, while Stephanie and Hope admit to being novices. Hope and Stephanie both balance heavy class loads but help with the rocket as time permits and are looking forward to painting the rocket. It is a fun, memorable learning adventure.
Winning teams will receive a NASA Center tour and participate in Student Launch at Marshall Space Flight Center or RockOn! At Wallops Flight Facility. The team is being assisted by FDLTCC professional math tutor Steve Highland, who is the team advisor. The team meets in the CAA (room W121) between classes. Contact any club member or Steve for more information.
Thunder Rocketry Team 2017

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