They were expendable

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Well-Known Member
Jan 17, 2009
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Just spent most of the morning at my #2 son's school, doing a modroc launch with his class. Mind you, it's blowing 20-25 mph, just like it always seems to do here, and any other day I would just say 'too bad' and put my toys away. But elementary school teachers do not have much flexibility for rescheduling class learning plans due to weather, and I was on the schedule, so . . .

A week ago I went into their class to talk about rockets. I was surprised to see about half the class raise their hands when I asked how many had built and flown model rockets before. They were very excited when I left behind an Estes Viking, a Quark, a 220 Swift, and an Alpha III (well, I thought the one-piece plastic fin unit would be good for beginners) for them to build. The teacher and I got them organized in four teams to build the kits, with some of the experienced kids mixed into each team. I told the kids to read the directions carefully and follow them, and we would launch in a week.

Well, today I got to see what they had wrought. I have been hearing stories all week long from my son, who told me that when one kid glued the fins on, the next kid came along and tore them off again. So I was not really surprised to find out that only two of the four were anywhere ready for flight testing. The Alpha III did not have a shock cord (or anything else) connecting the NC/streamer to the rest of the rocket, and the Quark was nowhere to be seen. The Viking was put together well, and the Swift showed some creativity and ingenuity (they got tired of trying to use white glue in a classroom, and attached the fins to the BT with a hot glue gun).

I brought along a few extras so that each team would have something to fly today (I was sort of expecting they might not be completely ready). I had a bright orange Quark, a Quest Sprint, a Custom Redliner (with streamer), an Estes Stars-n-Stripes (my son's), and a Blue Ninja (also his).

After having lived here for 25+ years, I kind of know and expect that it will be windy, and that I don't want to use C motors. I have spent about three weeks shopping in all the local hobby, craft, and other stores looking for 1/2A or 1/4A "T" series motors, and there weren't any in the whole ^&*( town. I should have known better, but I went out this morning with a box full of A10Ts.

Well, the kids were excited about handling a real rocket motor, so I let some of them load the motors, some got to insert the igniter (only one bad igniter all morning), some got to pack in ejection wadding, others got to insert the streamers. A few got to mount the rockets on the launcher and hook up the leads. And ALL of them were jumping like NBA champs to be the ones to push the launch button.

The Swift went first on an A10, and I warned them to watch the sky and not the launcher. But with 20+ sets of eyeballs, we lost it. Not a clue. No track at all. No confirmed on the descent. Never found on the ground. Zero for one.

My orange Quark went up next on another A10. We saw glimpses of it through the flight, and one of the kids pointed to a corner of the schoolyard where he thought it landed. Actually it came down about 50 yards away the OTHER direction, but that's OK, we found it. That bird made two more flights before joining the Swift in oblivion. Zero for two. The bright orange did not help one little bit.

We launched the Viking on an A8 and angled the launcher into the wind, so it wouldn't blow so far down-field like the others did. So it popped its streamer and landed upwind, across the street, in someone's front yard. They very kindly picked it up and returned it. The second flight on another A8 happened to reach apogee in the middle of a high-altitude wind gust, because the thing just blew away. It wend downwind and bounced off a roof, landing in some bushes. It was recovered later and returned to the class. One for three.

Then we flew the Sprint a couple times (A8 power), and got it back both times. Huh. Two for four, getting better. We tried the Stars-n-Stripes once on a B6 and successfully recovered it. Three for five. Not feeling quite so stupid anymore.

Finally, my #2 son begins insisting on flying his Blue Ninja (read: "I wanna show off!!"). Remember that the smallest motor that will fit is a C, and the basic design is equipped with a small 'chute. (I did not have enough time earlier to switch this out for a streamer---big mistake) I told my son three times that it was too windy, it would fly away, but he kept asking. So----

Last flight for the day was a B.N. on C11 power. Angled the launcher a bit upwind so it might possibly descend somewhere in the same county. Fat chance. Good boost, nice glide to peak altitude of a couple hundred feet, then came . . . the parachute from hell. Absolutely no discernable vertical descent motion, just floating sideways. Fast. I waved goodbye as it passed overhead, and told my son to say goodbye. The B.N. was last seen passing beyond some big trees into the local neighborhood.

Well, the kids had fun. We hit the highlights of a few basics of science/physics to legitimize this "learning" activity. They will finish building their other two birds and we might try this again next week.

Hey, that's what half-price sales at HobLob are for!
Sounds like a lot of fun, that is all that matters :)

There is a good chance you created some rocketeers of the future as well :)
There is something to be said about doing a class with kids where rockets are lost... least they are introduced to "real world rocketry"... :D

Any rocketry outing with kids is fun... sounds like you had fun, weather not withstanding!
Originally posted by jflis
sounds like you had fun

I know you also know about this, Jim, but the rest of you guys:
either volunteer at your kid's school, or if you don't have a kid just plain volunteer at your local school.

You can get all the supplies you need for $20 at the next half-price sale to fix up an entire class, and for another $20 you can get all the motors you will need. It is some of the best money you can spend.

The teachers usually appreciate it, and I have had good luck giving a kit to the teacher too (challenge the students to do a better job than the instructor, and stand back and watch the fur fly).

I have gone into middle school a couple times, but that level is harder because the kids want too much to look 'cool' and playing with rockets isn't considered cool (no matter how hard all the boys secretly want to!) So, my approach there was to get a local pizza place (Di-Di's? Fi-Fi's? ---something like that) to toss in a bunch of free pizza coupons, and told the class that the longest duration flight on a streamer would win the coupons. THAT got a response.
Hey PowderBurner,

sounds like fun even with the lost birds. The description you give of the Blue Ninja flying off into the distance reminds me that it was 'rocketeers' who invented wind surfing :D

The good part of the exercise is that you have no doubt inspired some kids ! Well worth the cost...


(Evil) Bob
Powder You hit the nail squarely on the head!
I've been preaching to the NAR for the last 10 years about getting some kind of program started in the elementry schools. Glad to see folks in other areas doing this very important work! Kudos for making your class activity work! Great job.
I do hope at some point, you let them all know Hotmelt glue gun adhesives melt at temps lower than the heat generated by a working motor, creating the possibility of loosing fins. We've had several youngsters models loose fins over the last couple years to this poor construction method:(

Super job keep up the great work.
We cheated the wind gods today when we had our follow-up school launch. It was just as windy (or more so) than last week, but we were prepared with an arsenal of rockets tailored for gusty conditions.

I brought a bunch of 'throw-away' stuff, just in case, and figured if I got them back then the kids would want them. Funny, by the end of the morning the class was more interested in getting one of the used motor casings that any of the modrocs (the motors smelled 'stinky').

I brought a Qubit-T and also a 1.333-sized version. I built them from some picture-framing cardboard, pretty thick (about 3/32?) and a bit on the heavy side. Flew both on A10PT motors, flew each bird twice. Got good altitudes (about 100 ft, slow flight, easy for the kids to see) and the boys had lots of fun running to catch them on descent as though they were going out for a pass. At least no one spiked any of the rockets.

I brought two spool rockets made with CDs. Each one flew nicely on an 18mm C motor, and made a slow-but-steady climb to about 100 or 150 feet. CDs continue to be a bad choice for spools, and each one broke on landing. My record with spools is about 90 percent 'busted on the first flight,' you would think that I would learn, and stop using CDs?

We flew the Viking again on A8-3 motors, and had two good flights. Both landed inside the school yard and were recovered, the rocket had no damage. The kids were excited to prep the motors, load them into the modroc, pack the wadding and streamer, place the rocket on the launcher, hook up the leads, call out the countdown and hit the button. It is amazing how excited they get over stuff that us old-timers just go, ho-hum.

We flew the Quark that one of the class teams put together, and in keeping with tradition, it disappeared into the ether on the first flight. Not one single trace of a remnant.

We flew the Alpha III that another of the class teams put together, although we had to do a little field repair first. You learn something each time you work with kids. I had thought the Alpha would be idiot-simple, but it seems that I was the idiot. The kids had managed to attach both the streamer I supplied and the parachute that came originally with the kit, so we had to take the 'chute off (for today's gusty winds). Even after I told them, at length, to be sure the shock cord anchor was down inside the BT, they went ahead and glued it right inside the front edge. The BT-to-fin can joint was loose (they promised that they had glued it) so we taped it up. And they had lost the launch lug, so we had to tape one on the side. But we flew it! We used an A8-3 for the first flight, which went cleanly to several hundred feet and came down inside the school playground. We flew a second time with a B6-4 and it drifted a bit farther, into the street, but did not seem to have any damage.

One of the kids brought his Estes Exo-Skell to fly. I have not ever had one of these POS rockets, but he was excited and the class wanted to see the little alien guy fly. I tried a flight on an A8-3. BIG MISTAKE. Don't try this at home. The rocket went up about 20-30 feet and flopped right back down. An instant after impact the ejection charge went off, launching the bottom of the rocket backwards into the air again. The kids all laughed their heads off while I said a thank you prayer that it had not landed on anyone. We loaded it back up with a C6-3 and had a really good flight (still low, but everything that was supposed to happen 'in the air' did safely take place up there), even the parents got excited to see it come down on two seperate 'chutes. Almost went into the street, but we recovered it just fine.

We had 100 percent recovery today, even with the wind. The kids all asked if they could have the Qubits, and even the spool cadavers. Then, because it was the last day of school, we had pizza. Doesn't get much better than this.

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