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Teen Brothers Compete In United Launch Alliance Design Challenge

By Shawn Chitnis

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) -- Two brothers competing in a student rocket launch organized by United Launch Alliance and Ball Aerospace say the summer internship program they participated in is a great way to help everyone see the possibilities when studying STEM subjects and the careers that can come with that education.

"I've always been really interested in STEM," said Ryan Oroke, 17, an incoming freshman at the University of Colorado. "I love the whole challenge of trying to overcome an obstacle."

Oroke and his brother, Colter, 15, decided to team up for the annual competition asking teams of all ages (K-12) to create a payload, an object or instrument, which can be placed inside a rocket.

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The challenge was to design a payload that could eject from a rocket at 3,000 feet and then land in Lake Meredith before it could be controlled from the ground to return to a specific location.

"If you sit down and put your effort in, if you think creatively and outside of the box," said Oroke. "You can come up with a solution that works and that is viable."

More than 30 payloads were placed inside the rocket that launched on Saturday with more than a dozen competing for a cash prize to go to their school. Both brothers were attending Boulder High School when they started working on the project in February. Each put in hours of their own time outside of the classroom to complete a payload with a tube shape.

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They tested it at home but were surprised to see the rocket went faster than they anticipated and their payload lost its parachute when it detached 1,000 feet above the ground. It as still mostly in tact on Tuesday when they talked to CBS4.

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"Ever since I was a really little kid, I've loved math and science," said the younger Oroke, heading into his sophomore year in the fall.  "This provides kids kind of a gateway to what the actual world is like."

Even though the launch did not go as the two brothers predicted, they enjoyed the opportunity to get hands on experience and will continue their studies in this field.

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The older Oroke will study mechanical engineering in college this fall while the younger brother returns to high school.

"STEM is going to be our future for our children and our children's children," the future CU student said. "We were able to do something that was pretty cool, I think."

Both point to a passion for this pursuit early in their student careers. It is a reminder of the importance to introduce STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at an early age. The rocket launch competition allows teams as young as kindergarten to participate each year. The brothers also say that STEM can be challenging at first so it is important to give it attention early so students can get over the hurdle of that initial learning curve.

"STEM is the future, it's the future of our society," the Boulder High School student added. "Deep down inside of everyone there is a part of STEM to love."

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To learn more about ULA programs, visit:

Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.


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