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There is certainly lots to debate about corporate sponsorship of education and sponsored editorial content, in print and online. We have these debates all the time here at MAKE. And I’m sure educational organizations have equally tough choices to make in terms of getting the funding for great educational programs, money that companies are all too happy to provide, for a branding opportunity. It’s a dance, it can get awkward, but it can also be done right (we believe), it can be a win for everybody involved.

In most regards, this seems to be the case with the Sony/Intel sponsored Rocket Project. They took eight students from the California Academy for Math and Sciences, a magnate high school specializing in advanced science, and gave them an extraordinary opportunity — design, build, and launch a rocket into the stratosphere — all within 60 days, using Sony Vaio laptops to design and control the mission. The resulting rocket measures 29 feet tall, weighs over 500 pounds, and is capable of reaching the stratosphere. The students were crash-course-schooled in rocket science by Tom Atchison, Director of the Association of Rocket Mavericks, and a leading light in the high-power rocketry community.

The Rocket Project website and videos are a little overwrought for my taste, they feel too much like laptop commercials disguised as educational content, rather than educational videos sponsored by two tech companies. But in the midst of that, the story here, the journey these teens are on, seems genuine, and I’m sure they’re having an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

The rocket was supposed to launch today (7/22), but now it looks (according to a post on the Sony Electronics FB page) that the launch will happen within the next 24 to 48 hours. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

The Rocket Project

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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