SDL employees' kids launch rockets for building 'skybreaking'

May 26, 2016 | HJ News

A model rocket lifts off during a "skybreaking" ceremony for a new Space Dynamics Laboratory building on Thursday afternoon. Model rockets were built and launched by the children of SDL employees to commemorate the start of the building's construction.

NORTH LOGAN — Kids of Utah State University Space Dynamics Lab employees celebrated the start of construction for a new building with a “skybreaking” by launching model rockets Thursday afternoon.

The event was a contrast to traditional hard-hats-and-shovels groundbreaking ceremonies. Thomas Edison Charter School student Austin Larson, 11, son of SDL Mechanical Designer Garry Larson, was one of several kids who built a rocket to launch for the event.

“I’ve just always wanted to build a rocket,” Larson said. “I think it’s cool how you can fit such complicated things into a tiny space.”

Scott Hinton, president of the USU Research Foundation, explained that the skybreaking came about because of a contest among the kids of SDL employees. Parents bought model rocket kits for their kids, they constructed the rockets and got creative with colors and names (among them “Rainbow Inferno,” “Shooting Stars” and “Peter Pan”). A panel of judges selected eight winning rockets out of 41 submissions.

Launches were conducted not all at once but in groups of rockets, with names like “Mercury” and “Gemini.” Every time, USU officials did a 10-second countdown and kids clicked buttons to set their rockets off. All the while, parents watched as they snacked on Aggie Ice Cream.

Garry Larson talked about what it meant for him to bring his kids to Thursday’s event and watch their rocket being launched.

“We like science and engineering,” Larson said. “It brings a lot of focus to science and engineering in the valley.”

Niel Holt, director of SDL, was among several USU officials who spoke at a ceremony before the kids launched rockets.

“We’re here to break the sky on this new building,” Holt said.

Hinton remarked that the start of construction was “another milestone” in the history of SDL and USURF.

“The kids here are probably more excited than anyone,” Hinton said. “We’re excited to have young future scientists here.”

The new SDL building will bring more lab and office space for 145 SDL employees with nearly 74,000 square feet. It will be located at the intersection of 1400 North and 600 East, across the street from the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative buildings.

Mark McLellan, USU vice president of research, talked about what the new building would mean for SDL.

“Today, USU celebrates a new dream of a new direction with the building that is a leading-edge facility and will allow us to deliver expansion of our engineers’ dreams,” McLellan said. “The future is ours to own, and this facility is a path to that future.”

Holt put his feelings for the new building another way, paraphrasing astronaut Neil Armstrong.

“This one small step for USU, one giant leap for SDL,” Holt said.

Part of the USU Research Foundation and with its headquarters located on the Innovation Campus, SDL tests and constructs instruments for space missions. The facility generates an annual revenue of $72 million and has 600 employees, including university students. SDL has more than 430 spaceflight missions to its name, including sensor systems, shuttle and rocket payloads.