San Jacinto College students put STEM skills to the test

09.26.2014 | By Jeannie Peng-Armao

With little time, San Jacinto College students pulled off a big win at the recent Bayer Alka Rockets Challenge at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The College sent two teams to the Expo Inspire event, which was a part of the annual 100 Year Starship Symposium this month and was coordinated by physician and NASA astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison. One San Jacinto College team included the The Three Rocketeers and challenge winners Jared Reynolds, Ivan Zepeda, and Julio Hernandez. The College's second team included Edward Garza, Angel Salazar, and Jaime Rodriguez. The students competed against other teams from local universities.

The teams had 50 minutes to build a rocket launch using a limited amount of materials that included 50 Alka-Seltzer tablets, paper, glue, film canisters, tape, and water. The goal was to launch 50 rockets simultaneously as high as possible.  Reynolds said several designs were considered before making the right decision that won the challenge.

"We decided to glue the Alka-Seltzer tablets to the lids of the film canisters," said Reynolds. "We found that it was easier to use two poster boards to flip the canisters over and let the water fall onto the tablets, resulting in the activation of the tablets and rocket launch."

Nate Wiggins, San Jacinto College math professor, served as the team's faculty sponsor. The Three Rocketeers will repeat their rocket launch at the San Jacinto College North Campus during the STREAM event on Nov. 14, an event sponsored by LyondellBasell that will focus on science, math, robotics, and reading education.

San Jacinto College graduate and University of Houston physics student, Gabriel Medrano, advised the College's second team. Overall, more than 20 San Jacinto College students participated in the Alka Rocket Challenge and volunteered with the robotics hands-on activity booth at the Expo Inspire event. 

"When we found out about the rocket challenge with just a couple of weeks notice, we were excited to sign on to become a part of this opportunity," said Sharon Sledge, San Jacinto College math professor. "Our two teams stepped up to the challenge and ran with it. What this says about STEM education at San Jacinto College is that we have students who embrace new experiences in STEM education, who can change up their strategies to complete a challenge, and who think quickly on their feet."

San Jacinto College is home to a STEM Council that strives to increase awareness of education and career opportunities related to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The Council sponsors STEM activities throughout the College and the region, as Houston ranks among the top 10 cities for STEM careers. The Council works with community members to promote the STEM fields, while forging strong partnerships with universities and industries for further education and workforce training.

For a complete list of STEM events supported by San Jacinto College, visit

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.