AUSTIN (KXAN) — The countdown has begun. In just a few hours, rockets will blast off into the Hill Country skies. Students from 30 Texas high schools are near Fredericksburg showing off their work, and we spoke to the creative minds behind the big launch.

The SystemsGo Aeroscience program started in Fredericksburg High School in 1996 under the direction of teacher Brett Williams. The student teams design and build 8-foot-tall models that will go up from one of six launch towers.

“The students start in the first semester, and they learn about the physics of flight,” said Fredericksburg teacher Andrew Mathis.

The students then enter the next stage of their learning and are presented with a problem:

  1. First-year students: to get a 1-pound payload research package to one mile high
  2. Second-generation projects: to break the speed of sound

Students spend the entire semester getting to this point, and Mathis says the teacher becomes a facilitator who doesn’t make it his or her job to teach but rather to help them find the answers and solutions.

“When they ask questions, our job as teachers is just to say, ‘I don’t know. What does your research tell you?’” said Mathis. “When they say, ‘We’ve run into a problem,’ you say, ‘Good luck.’”

Students Thursday morning are conducting practice runs and focusing on the finishing touches on their rockets. And it’s an undertaking that doesn’t come easy.

“We’re really pushing kids in the areas they’ve never been before; they’ve never considered this in their life,” said Mathis. “They can’t just walk out and get a Google search that’s going to tell them how to do it – you know, 3 million searches in half a second.”

Mathis says these days, students are used to finishing their research really quickly. However, students involved with this project might spend two months researching they even touch actual rocket parts.

“They really have to do their research,” said Mathis.

Students build and launch rockets as a way to develop skills and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This program has since spread across the state and is endorsed by NASA and is certified by The Space Foundation.