Advice for building/launching rockets with a girl scout troop?

smstachwick

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We did the launch a couple days ago, and it went quite well. There were 19 kids there with their rockets (12 troop members and a few siblings & friends). The Estes Generic E2X flies very nicely on A8-3 engines: high enough to be impressive, but not so high that there was any real risk of losing rockets. One of girl's older brother had built one of the "extra" kits and decided he really wanted to see how high it would go (acknowledging that it might get lost) and we lauched it with a C6-5. OpenRocket says it should hit 1300ft on that engine, and it very well could have. I lost sight of it completely, but the kids spotted it when the chute deployed and chased it down about 1000ft downwind where it landed safely.

We did 40-50 launches, and there was only one deployment failure of an E2X. The nose cone popped off but the engine ejected without ejecting the chute, so it did a "lawn dart" landing with the nosecone flapping in the wind beside the body tube. The engine hook looked fine during the post-mortem examination so I'm a bit baffled as to what happened.

I had bashed the kits a bit and instead of the Estes tri-fold shock cord mount, we had 12" of kevlar string anchored around the top end of the engine mount tube. I'm 100% convinced that improves chute deployment odds.

We also launched an Estes Der Red Max belonging to a brother of one of the girls. That chute got singed and didn't open completely — it's hard to get enough wadding into those wide body tubes — and it popped a fin on landing. It had already been launched quite a few times, and it looked like the engine mount was pulling loose on one side, so I recommended retirement for it.

We also launched three scratch-built rockets my niece's kids built from some thin-walled 1" ID plastic tubes (PVC, I think) they found around the house. My brother turned some balsa nose-cones for those, and they made fins out of 4.5mm plywood their dad had laying around. I helped them put in engine mounts/blocks/retainers, shock cords, and launch lugs. They were pretty heavy by LPR standards. Two of them launched at about 6oz (including C11-3 engines), and the smaller one went up at about 3.4oz with a B6-4.

Here's a slow-motion video one of the kids took of one of the scratch-built rockets launching with a C11-3 (you can see two of the girls' Generic E2X rockets on the sawhorse launchpads next to the tripod launchpad.


That’s good!

I’ve been considering leading a group build and launch with the E2X, it’s encouraging to hear that it’s a solid kit.
 

Grant_Edwards

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I’ve been considering leading a group build and launch with the E2X, it’s encouraging to hear that it’s a solid kit.
There's no way we could glue individual fins, but I wanted something that required a bit more work than a snap-together rocket. The E2X worked well.

I was building with 4th and 5th grade kids with no background in rocket-building, and we had a 1-½ hour time budget. I wanted to allow at least 15-20 minutes for decorating the rockets, so that left me with about 1 hour of actual build time.

So I prepped the kits as follows:
  • Marked body tube
  • Marked engine mount tube and pre-cut slit for hook
  • Added centering ring with notch for rear of engine tube
  • Added kevlar string with pre-tied loop in one end
  • Pre-form loop in both ends of rubber shock cord
  • Attached snap swivel to 'chute
  • Cut notch on inside of large centering ring for anchoring kevlar
  • Wrap/tape kevlar string around large centering ring.
  • Added a 10" piece of 1/8" steel rod about 1/4" shorter than the body tube.
The steel rod is used during build for launch lung alignment and later stuck into a piece of 1x4" hardwood and used as a display stand. Wiping the steel rods down with finishing wax and paper towels prevents them from rubbing off black on everything.

For the loops in the end of the rubber shock cord, I used RTV (clear amazing goop, IIRC), and then whipped them with heavy thread.

I had done a trial-run of the build session with my two adult helper volunteers (neither had built any rockets) and 5-6 kids (a year or two older than the girl scouts). A couple of the kids had just had covid, so the trial build session was done over Zoom. Helping kids build stuff over Zoom is hard.

The trail-run went slowly, and since I couldn 't see what they're doing, every kid really needed an adult looking over their shoulder. During the trial build, I had the kids wrap the kevlar around the centering ring — that step was tough for them, and we spent a lot of time on it. One of them still ended up with the kevlar string on wrong: it ended between the centering ring and the body tube, and then he couldn't get the body-tube all the way onto the fin can. He also installed the rear centering with without lining up the gap with the engine hook, so the engine hook was trapped and couldn't flex. If I had been able to see what he was doing, that could have been avoided. We got the Zoom build done it about 2 hours (including time spent watching a few videos between some of the steps while glue dried). In order to speed things up for the "real" build session, I pre-taped the kevlar around the centering ring and dropped a couple of the videos from the agenda.

For the real (masked, but in-person) build session with the 12 girl scouts, I had 4 parents present. Two of them had been through the build process during the practice session. The build was new to the other two parents, but they had zero trouble understanding what was going on, keeping an eye on the girls, and helping out when one of them needed a pointer. I definitely recommend trying for a 3:1 kid:adult ratio or better. I don't think it's necessary for the parents to do a practice build.

The real build went very smoothly (especially compared with Zoom).

One of my most emphatic hints is to rehearse every step involving glue. Have them _pretend_ to apply glue (watch them to see if they're putting it in the right place). then dry assembly the parts, and even tape them down (if that's going to happen). Check all of the dry-assembled parts for correct orientation, etc. Then undo it, and repeat with glue.

Use slow drying glue (e.g. Titebond III) when you're sliding something inside something else.

Use faster glue (e.g. Titebond quick & thick) for things like launch lugs.

Everybody should have a damp rag sitting in front of them for wiping glue off fingers.

It takes a little effort to make sure everybody is using the right glue at each step, but it's worth it.

We had 4-5 sets of colored permanent markers for decorating. I also had some nickle-sized girl scouts logo stickers, and a random assortment of stickers I had printed on 8-10 sheets of Avery clear gloss sticker paper and cut up before the build (varous colors of stripes, BT-50 body wraps in different patterns, "troop 123456" graphics, and a couple other girl-scout related graphics).

If you print stickers on an inkjet printer you really have to let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours, then spray them with a couple thin coats of clear acrylic, and then let that dry for 24 hours. I only waited an hour or so before I stacked up the (not completely dry) sheets after they came off the printer, and several of them stuck together and peeled bits of ink off when they were pulled apart.

It was tough watching them decorate the maple display bases I had made, but I knew it was going to happen. They would have been perfectly happy with unsanded pine blocks, but I couldn't stop myself from going with maple, beveling the top edges, then sanding and finishing with some wax.

I've attached the printed instructions I drew up.
 

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Grant_Edwards

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If you can, allow plenty of time for decorating. When you're 10, there's no such thing as too many stickers. As I overheard one of the girls say to her mother: "Stickers Rule!"
 

smstachwick

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I attached the printed instructions I drew up.
Holy cow that is amazing! Thanks for providing those. I was working on my own in a PowerPoint slide show, mainly using the steps and drawings that come with the kit. Good to know that they’re not really suited to a group build with this age group, you probably saved me a couple of headaches.
 

Grant_Edwards

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Holy cow that is amazing! Thanks for providing those.
I ended up spending way more time on the instructions than I thought I would, and it's great if they're of use to anybody else. The printed instructions probably would have been less elaborate if we weren't forced to do the first build over Zoom. The instructions are mostly LibreOffice "drawing" files (a seperate .odt file for each page). A couple of the pages are just edited .pdf files based on sections of the Estes instructions. If you want the LibreOffice "source" files, let me know.

After you've built a few rockets, the Estes instructions are OK. I always seem to do things in a different order than shown (and modify a few things). But, it seems to me that for a first timer, they tend to be a bit vague. The graphics are also sometimes hard to interpret. In my experience, getting the tri-fold mounts installed is tough for a first-timer, and I'm not all that thrilled with that sort of mount even when it's done properly. So substituting kevlar attached to the engine mount is one thing I always do.
 

BEC

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Those are nice alternate instructions. I guess i need to spend more time with LibreOffice Draw... it's clearly more capable than I've had the patience to learn.

<redundant to prior post> n I resequenced the Alpha build for some Museum of Flight group builds and liberally used pieces of the instructions as posted online rather than redrawing anything. All of that now resides in a Keynote file, but I could share it in .pdf form if someone wanted it.

I don't have the same aversion to the Estes tri-fold shock cord mount as many do - I find that they work very nicely (in BT-50 and larger-sized models). So when I prep kits for group build I just pre-cut those and include that in the kit bag. I've a file where I've created a sheet of a number of them, so I don't have to cut up the instructions. In fact, in those group builds I don't even give out the instruction sheets - but use the Keynote presentation (along with partially built examples of sub-assemblies) to show what to do. </redundant stuff>

I've also done group builds of the BMS School Rocket in a classroom setting, and using BMS' instructions, and there the main problem was keeping those who actually had a few skills from getting so far ahead that they were disruptive while we got the others through a given step.

All in all - well done!! I'm glad it went so well for you. (It probably helped more than a little bit that it was Girl Scouts, not Cub/Boy Scouts, too....but I suppose these days one isn't suppose to say stuff like that.... :( )
 
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Grant_Edwards

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All in all - well done!! I'm glad it went so well for you. (It probably helped more than a little bit that it was Girl Scouts, not Cub/Boy Scouts, too....but I suppose these days one isn't suppose to say stuff like that.... :( )

At around that age, I think girls do tend to be a little more detail-oriented and stay on-task better. I'm not going to speculate on the nature vs. nurture (vs. observer bias?) source of that (perceived) difference. ;)
 

Grant_Edwards

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I've also done group builds of the BMS School Rocket in a classroom setting, and using BMS' instructions, and there the main problem was keeping those who actually had a few skills from getting so far ahead that they were disruptive while we got the others through a given step.
That was definitely a problem when we did the trial-run via Zoom. A couple of the kids (especally ones who had built rockets before) "got" the printed instructions right away, worked a couple steps ahead, and then got bored listening to me repeatedly explaining the instructions and demonstrating how to assembly subsystems they already had done.

For the Zoom build, I rigged up an "overhead camera" by attaching a webcam to a gooseneck and positioning it right in front of my face looking down at the table surface where I was demonstrating stuff. Without that, doing it over zoom would have been pretty hopeless for the kids who couldn't quite visualize what they were supposed to do based on the printed instructions. It seems that some people are just not "printed instruction" types, and some are.

On the plus side, I got Zoom to show a photo as my background so it looked I was sitting in the top of the VAB at Kennedy, with a huge SLS stack behind me.
 

smstachwick

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Those are nice alternate instructions. I guess i need to spend more time with LibreOffice Draw... it's clearly more capable than I've had the patience to learn.

<redundant to prior post> n I resequenced the Alpha build for some Museum of Flight group builds and liberally used pieces of the instructions as posted online rather than redrawing anything. All of that now resides in a Keynote file, but I could share it in .pdf form if someone wanted it.

I don't have the same aversion to the Estes tri-fold shock cord mount as many do - I find that they work very nicely (in BT-50 and larger-sized models). So when I prep kits for group build I just pre-cut those and include that in the kit bag. I've a file where I've created a sheet of a number of them, so I don't have to cut up the instructions. In fact, in those group builds I don't even give out the instruction sheets - but use the Keynote presentation (along with partially built examples of sub-assemblies) to show what to do. </redundant stuff>

I've also done group builds of the BMS School Rocket in a classroom setting, and using BMS' instructions, and there the main problem was keeping those who actually had a few skills from getting so far ahead that they were disruptive while we got the others through a given step.

All in all - well done!! I'm glad it went so well for you. (It probably helped more than a little bit that it was Girl Scouts, not Cub/Boy Scouts, too....but I suppose these days one isn't suppose to say stuff like that.... :( )
As mentioned before, I’ve done a group build with Boy Scouts, probably 10 years ago at least. We also threw out the instructions and had everyone follow along while the instructor demonstrated the steps to put various subassemblies together.

Our Space Exploration Merit Badge Counselor (and resident rocket expert) did enlist the help of myself and another Scout who had rocket experience to go around and check that everyone else had done theirs correctly.

The intended build was stock, I do believe we used the trifold mount as well. The only difference I think was that we omitted the motor hook retaining ring, it was one less glue joint to do and the notched rear centering ring kept in place well enough.

(It probably helped more than a little bit that it was Girl Scouts, not Cub/Boy Scouts, too....but I suppose these days one isn't suppose to say stuff like that.... :( )

Well, I can’t guarantee that my word aligns with a broader societal standard, but I have no problem with it.
 

BEC

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At around that age, I think girls do tend to be a little more detail-oriented and stay on-task better. I'm not going to speculate on the nature vs. nurture (vs. observer bias?) source of that (perceived) difference. ;)
The most stark demonstration of this I have seen in a rocketry context was a few years ago when we had a Civil Air Patrol squadron fly with us. These were high-schoolers. The girls brought well built models where everything was straight and firmly attached (and often painted nicely). Some models the boys brought required on-the-field repairs before they were safe to fly and were they were generally sloppily assembled. I have seen this to a lesser extent with, say, some of those Museum of Flight group builds among slightly younger kids.

I'm sure the differences are real, not just perceived.
 

boatgeek

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The most stark demonstration of this I have seen in a rocketry context was a few years ago when we had a Civil Air Patrol squadron fly with us. These were high-schoolers. The girls brought well built models where everything was straight and firmly attached (and often painted nicely). Some models the boys brought required on-the-field repairs before they were safe to fly and were they were generally sloppily assembled. I have seen this to a lesser extent with, say, some of those Museum of Flight group builds among slightly younger kids.

I'm sure the differences are real, not just perceived.
There's some pretty wild developmental differences between girls and boys up through high school at least. I sort of wonder how much of what's diagnosed as ADHD is just acute cases of being ten year old boys.
 

mjennings

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There's some pretty wild developmental differences between girls and boys up through high school at least. I sort of wonder how much of what's diagnosed as ADHD is just acute cases of being ten year old boys.
ADHD and 10 year old boy is very different. I'm a parent of an autistic child with limited verbal ability and an ADHD child, and a den leader for cub scouts in a co-ed Pack. All kids have varying levels of focus. A lot of detail orientation is based on level of interest, get them motivated and they'll do good work.

Attention Deficit is a poor name. Many ADHD kids can focus quite well in what they are interested in, even to the point of hyper-focus. The deficit is in controling their focus. The ability to focus on necessary but unpleasant task, ie cleaning their room or a school subject they are weak vs getting absorbed in a book, art, video game etc. Is where ADHD resides.

On topic @Grant_Edwards really glad it went well with the Girl Scouts
 

Grant_Edwards

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[only had 1 hour of build time with the kids]

So I prepped the kits as follows:
  • Marked body tube
  • Marked engine mount tube and pre-cut slit for hook
  • Added centering ring with notch for rear of engine tube
  • Added kevlar string with pre-tied loop in one end
  • Pre-form loop in both ends of rubber shock cord
  • Attached snap swivel to 'chute
  • Cut notch on inside of large centering ring for anchoring kevlar
  • Wrap/tape kevlar string around large centering ring.
  • Added a 10" piece of 1/8" steel rod about 1/4" shorter than the body tube.

I forgot one:
  • Trim extra plastic from nose cone
I didn't want to hand out X-Acto knives.... [nor did I have enough knives for everybody]
 

BEC

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Reviving this thread because I said I'd report back (and I don't want to detract too much from the current BMS School Rocket-focused thread).

The RocketryWorks Socrates is essentially a BMS School Rocket with the laser-cut ply parts, the motor hook and the nose cone replaced with 3D printed parts that include a screw-on motor retainer. I've built and flown two of them quite a few times and find it to be quite the agreeable model. The 3D printed parts have features in them that allow the entire model to be built with no tools and just wood glue for attaching both the 3D printed parts and the balsa TTW fins.

And since the nose cone is hollow and open on the bottom, it's easy to tuck a FireFly or FS Mini in a pouch up in the nose cone to get actual data. And the actual data show that, unlike most models, it actually flies higher than the maker says it will. For example https://flightsketch.com/flights/2974/

It also suffers from the same weakness as the BMS School Rocket (and other BT-50-sized models that use Kevlar tied to the motor tube for a shock cord) — that shock cord WILL burn through. I've had it happen as quickly as the second flight (Rocketman small Miss Riley) and generally its somewhere between one and two dozen flights. I think my first School Rocket made it to the upper twenties before it happened. On my most-flown Socrates it took 12.
 

fyrwrxz

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I took two rocket kits (both the same, redundancy is your friend) for my granddaughter's first launch at LDRS 40.
Being 4, her dad helped her as she got to hold parts and follow along with the inventory and being read the build process. These unique little birds literally snap together with no glue and no drying time. I gave her a book of stickers to chose from and the little terror used every single one. The result? "The Lavender Fairie". I proudly call this pic "Grrl Power". Note she has practiced this move before. Grumpa can be a harsh taskmaster. I did manage to catch her filling both front pockets with dog barf, which may have earned me permanent disbarment from her mom on laundry day. Gotta start 'em young! See Ruby at Discount for these user friendly birds. B6-4 first flite.
 

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BEC

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I agree that the modelrockets.us Nexus is absolutely perfect for that use.

If one has to do a build then fly immediately session, or just don't have time for glue, or when working with really young rocketeers such as your granddaughter, this model is a good one. I've flown one to the point where one of the fin retention rings broke. I did a bunch of early FS Mini testing with one of these.
 

fyrwrxz

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I agree that the modelrockets.us Nexus is absolutely perfect for that use.

If one has to do a build then fly immediately session, or just don't have time for glue, or when working with really young rocketeers such as your granddaughter, this model is a good one. I've flown one to the point where one of the fin retention rings broke. I did a bunch of early FS Mini testing with one of these.
Bernard, any idea if the fs mini will come avail soon? I really need one for a speed bird I'm building for Rocstock
 

BEC

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Bernard, any idea if the fs mini will come avail soon? I really need one for a speed bird I'm building for Rocstock
The honest answer is "no".

A couple of months ago Russ was toying with the idea of an alternate design that used a small LiPoly (since one of the "I can't get them" parts is the holder for the 1225 coin cell that powers it) but I've not heard anything more recently. Perhaps ping him directly. @gtg738w
 

Arnie

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The most stark demonstration of this I have seen in a rocketry context was a few years ago when we had a Civil Air Patrol squadron fly with us. These were high-schoolers. The girls brought well built models where everything was straight and firmly attached (and often painted nicely). Some models the boys brought required on-the-field repairs before they were safe to fly and were they were generally sloppily assembled. I have seen this to a lesser extent with, say, some of those Museum of Flight group builds among slightly younger kids.

I'm sure the differences are real, not just perceived.
This is 2022
 
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