Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rocketry as an educational hobby

Popoften here...

To my great delight, I found online the 1970 Estes Model Rocket catalog. This is the very same catalog I eagerly ordered from as a ten and eleven year old boy using my paper route money. Some of the prices appear to have risen about ten-fold between then and now.

The first rocket I bought and built was the "V2". I was very worried about losing the rocket, so I put in a very weak engine. The rocket went up about 30 feet, then back down, and the parachute deployed a few seconds after the rocket hit the ground. My brother, several neighborhood boys, and my father laughed.

The next rocket I bought and launched was the "Astron Streak". I put in the strongest engine the rocket could take, a C6-7, and launched it. The rocket soared out of sight in a split second, and, as nearly as I could tell, did not come back down. I found it about a month later, in a neighbor's yard, rain-soaked and soggy.

The next rocket I built was a "Cherokee-D". I was very excited about this rocket, since it took the most powerful engine Estes swold back then. We lauched it in a huge schoolyard in Burnsville, Minnesota that was 2.5 square miles in area. There was virtually no ground-level wind.

Nevertheless, the rocket roared up about two thousand feet, where apparently there was a fair amount of wind. The parachute deployed, and the rocket drifted strongly laterally as it descended. We chased it about a mile and a half, and it disappeared into a grove of trees. It is probably still there, some 38 years later.

In the Fall of 1971 I had started spending my money on other things, such as baseball cards. Then in January of 1972 we moved from Minnesota to Virginia, and my interests diverged further.

I was, nonetheless "bitten by the model rocketry bug" way back in that summer of 1970, and the hobby re-emerged in my life in the early mid-1990's when I got some rockets for my four older children, launching them on a soccer field in Springfield, Virginia.

Then, z-rocketman came of age (at the ripe old age of 9!), and, well, here we are! :-)

All of the children, but particularly z-rocketman, enjoys going to launches. As a result, he's had a good introduction to some physics concepts. He understands the concepts of the center of gravity, the center of pressure and the center of mass, the phases a rocket goes through, and using trigonometry to estimate how high a rocket flies, to name a few. It's so neat to see him learning such advanced topics with such enthusiasm. That's really the key to successful learning - you have to want to learn it!

As a matter of fact, he is so enthusiastic that he has his own blog in which he writes about it. Check it out!


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