Hello Erin. Thank you for reaching out. Hopefully I can clarify some of the issues that we are encountering.
Our main goal is to keep moving forward with each project, taking the next step in development and application. For our rocketry program, we've made paper rockets, water rockets, small balsa rockets, larger scratch build rockets, and have developed motors to power all of them. Up to this point, we've come up with ways to keep costs down. We've even managed to design fully functional rockets that travel over 1000ft for less than $2, making it accessible to small student groups for relatively little cost. To scale up to the next stage of rockets requires metal parts and fabrication that becomes more costly, up to an estimated $150 per rocket. Although we can make larger student groups, the cost becomes prohibitive to move forward in this trajectory. One thing that we've done to shift focus is to develop better rocket designs and motors for the smaller rockets, but these options are becoming exhausted, and there is a loss in student engagement by not having that notion of moving to a new frontier.
For high altitude balloons and astrophotography, the issues that arise in funding come into play as we attempt to include more students in these projects. With current funding, we can launch 1-2 weather balloons in a semester, which we feel is good for 1-2 student groups of at most 5 members. For astrophotography, there are only a few telescopes and cameras that we have available to allow students to capture celestial objects. Having these limitations creates bottlenecks in the work we do, which inevitably results in less learning opportunities. We've reached out to community members and have been well supported. We worry, however, that depending on contributions from the community is unsustainable, and creates issues with planning and knowing what funding will be available. Hopefully we can figure something out to keep the momentum of these projects moving forward.