Engineering dreams and friendship at the Basalt High School Aerospace Club
Club embraces, adapts to diverse ideas and interests
Special to The Aspen Times
Growing up, Basalt High School senior Isaac Musselman loved all things that flew. From science fiction books and movies to watching airplanes and the stars at night, Musselman said he’s always had a passion for aerospace.
“I’ve always had the passion, but it’s a small valley and I never really found a network for it,” Musselman said.
So, he created it.
As a sophomore he found out about a scholarship opportunity from the Five Point Dream project and went to work to earn the scholarship and start an aerospace club.
“It’s called the Dream Project. You can win money to start your dream. I won the $1,500 scholarship at the end of my sophomore year and started the club my junior year in 2019,” Musselman said. “I was really excited, but nervous. There’s not really a template for an aerospace club.”
The club had 10 students right away, attracting a diverse group of students interested in different aspects of aerospace, “from technology to rockets and some members who hadn’t even heard of an aerospace club,” Musselman said.
“The club has thrived from a diverse array of ideas.”
The group has done a few rocket launches, an outdoor movie night under the stars watching “October Sky,” and an astronomy night co-hosted with Basalt Library. Musselman said community partnerships have helped to expand the program to other students and the public.
One of their first activities as a club was to attend a symposium in Vail where they were able to meet astronauts and ask questions afterward.
The club has also helped foster lifelong friendships. Musselman met Ubaldo Bogarin their freshman year in Advanced Placement computer science.
“Ubaldo’s got so many cool skills. He’s super mechanically minded so he’s always working on something,” Musselman said. “When I met him freshman year he was always in the classroom 3D printing something or writing computer programs.”
“During our freshman class together, a visitor came and spoke to us, sparking the idea of an aerospace club for Isaac,” Bogarin said. “I told Isaac if he started it I would join.”
Musselman said the club is special because of its ability to adapt to whatever general interests the group has.
“I don’t think there are too many clubs that are freeform like this. Since there aren’t really any other aerospace clubs, there aren’t too many parameters of what it has to be,” he said. “For example, if someone were way more into drones, the club could do that.”
Another reason Musselman is proud of the club is its ability to introduce students to different career paths.
“Students can choose something they are interested in, learn about it and when they apply for college maybe they will want to try something like electrical engineering because of what we did in the club,” Musselman said. “It gives you a taste of what it’s like to do different kinds of engineering. It’s also a cool way to work collaboratively without a teacher driving. You have to figure it out yourself by persevering and attacking the problem from different angles. If a rocket doesn’t work or a remote controller is acting finnicky you’re going to have to figure it out on your own. You can fix these complex machines and learn a lot about yourself in the process.”
Musselman plans to attend the Air Force Academy, where he said his ultimate goal is to spend as much time trying to fly as possible.
“I would love to become a pilot,” Musselman said. “You don’t declare your major until after freshman year, but I plan to go into aerospace engineering or international relations.”
Bogarin will attend the Colorado School of Mines next year.
But just because Musselman and Bogarin are graduating doesn’t mean it’s the end of the BHS Aerospace Club.
“There are lots of really interested students that are younger. The club has some great leadership and solid members to keep the club going,” said Musselman. “We’ve also received an additional scholarship that allows us to sustain ourselves and keep going. It’s a monetary cushion for the club next year.”
Darian Armer is a freelance writer based in Montana with roots in Colorado.
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