Wilson Middle School Math & Engineering Program (MESA) students launched plastic bottle rockets at the Glendale school on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012.

Wilson Middle School Math & Engineering Program (MESA) students launched plastic bottle rockets at the Glendale school on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. (Raul Roa/Staff photographer / September 28, 2012)

At Wilson Middle School on Friday, a lesson in engineering took students outside where they launched hand-made bottle rockets into the sky.

“I’ve always dreamed of building a rocket,” said 13-year-old Arthur Nanvelyan.

Now in his first year of the school’s MESA program — which cultivates interest in math, science and engineering — Arthur had an opportunity he didn’t anticipate.

“I couldn’t believe that we could fly rockets,” he said.

With help from The Rocket Owls — a six-member team from Citrus College — 60 Wilson students fashioned rockets out of empty two-liter bottles, cardboard and string.

During the two hours of building, 13-year-old Nicolas Sherman said, “We were taking reference to the prototype rocket that the Rocket Owls built.”

And for good reason — the Rocket Owls will compete in a NASA-run competition and must build a rocket that can travel at least one mile high. Before they compete, they must bring their expertise to 200 middle schools before April.

Wilson was among their first stops.

“I’m excited about this,” said Rocket Owl member Phoebe Sulzen. “I want to get the kids excited about it.”

For eighth-graders Meri Yedigaryan, Jee Yeon Kang and Yoora Jung, it was the first time they made a rocket, on which they drew a man riding to the moon.

“We wanted to make something that would stand out from the crowd,” Meri said.

In late October, Wilson and Roosevelt middle school students will attend “Boeing Day,” a conference with over 1,000 students, professionals and Boeing employees at Cal State Los Angeles.

Science teacher Mary Inglish said exposure to activities can inspire students to pursue careers in the industry.

“We as a country, we don’t have as many students going into engineering and all the science fields. Many of the jobs go to people from other countries because we don’t produce in our schools,” she said.

After all the rockets had launched Friday, the one that traveled the farthest was found 200 feet away from the launching pad.

“It nose-dived,” said 13-year-old Sydney Schoeller. The parachute didn’t activate, but she happily wiped the dirt off.

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan