Puyallup junior delves into rocket science

Staff writerMay 14, 2014 

Morgan Valiant tries out the Multi-Axis Trainer at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The MAT simulates the disorientation one would feel in a tumble spin during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.


For Morgan Valiant, 17, a junior at Emerald Ridge High School, flight has captured his attention since he was a boy growing up in Arizona.

His family’s move to Puyallup was fortuitous. When he entered school at Emerald Ridge High School, he soon found out about the introduction to aeronautical engineering courses there, including the flight and CAD design simulators.

“My school has a good engineering program,” Valiant said. “There is a bunch of engineering-based classes, like intro to flight.”

The icing on the cake for Valiant this year was his acceptance to the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy based at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Valiant was among 304 students from 38 countries and 33 U.S. states and territories selected to attend the academy. He attended March 1-7.

“The most memorable was all the leadership and the team-built stuff,” Valiant said. “The teamwork was a real stressed part of the program as a whole, which I thought was really nice.”

The Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy is an educational outreach program managed by Honeywell International, a Fortune 100 diversified technology and manufacturing company.

The academy instructs children of Honeywell employees between the ages of 16-18 on leadership skills in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM.

“Our goal is to continue to develop a new generation of leaders, engineers and scientists who can address the challenges of tomorrow,” said Tom Buckmaster, president of Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company’s initiative that produces the academy. “Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy is a holistic program that uses a variety of teaching methods to open students’ minds to the many possibilities for rewarding careers.”

Valiant said all the activities during the academy were team-based.

“You had to be a good leader,” Valiant said. “Our last activity was to build a rocket. Our leader was assigned and had to listen to our ideas and integrate everyone’s design properties.”

Valiant said his team had to build a rocket out of scratch parts and build a compartment for an egg that would go on the inside.

“(The rocket) had to go at least nine feet in the air and had to come down with the egg intact,” Valiant explained.

Valiant said the most fun he had was enjoying the social aspect of the academy.

“People from all around the world had come,” he said. “A couple people from India were really nice. We all shared a common interest in flight and engineering.”

Valiant said the experience has definitely made him steer more toward the engineering side.

“This pretty much strengthens that, which was really nice,” he said.

Valiant wants to launch a career in aeronautical engineering — building rockets.

Valiant said he is hopeful he will be accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. He said he has heard the aeronautical engineering program there is “the best in the nation.”

Other college possibilities are Texas A & M and Arizona State University.

Valiant said anyone who has the opportunity to experience the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy should definitely go.

“I would definitely recommend it,” he said.

Andrew Fickes: 253-552-7001 andrew.fickes @puyallupherald.com

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