Family Science Club

Pointing to the Author of Science


Young girls with rockets, 2015

Image: Romily and Pippa showing off their rockets. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

Model Rocketry with Faith Community Church, 2015, Part II

While one can launch very small rockets in some of the parks in the Philadelphia suburbs, we had to drive a bit to launch most of what the kids helped us build. We attended a weekend launch at the Philadelphia Area Rocketry Association, PARA 521. These are done from a large corn field north of Plumsteadville.

8 cars, several launch pads, a bunch of people, 2015

Image: A number of rocket enthusiasts were flying that day. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

We have been to at least seven launches at PARA during the last ten years. They are a friendly bunch. Often a group from Civil Air Patrol or the Boy Scouts will be there, too.

Where a rocket motor goes, 2015

Image: Romily learning how to install a rocket motor. The orange part of the rocket holds a raw egg. Taken by Heidi Weaver

We showed the kids how to mount the motors, prepare the parachutes or streamers, and then to prepare the electrical igniters. The older ones did all the work on their rockets. We helped the younger ones a bit.

Twisting a rocket motor into place. 2015

Image: Romily installing her motor. Taken by Heidi Weaver

Tying the shock cord to the nose cone, 2015

Image: Pippa tying on her rocket's nose cone. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

Tying a streamer onto the shock cord, 2015

Image: Romily preparing her rocket's streamer. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

Two parts of a rocket descending under parachutes, 2015

Image: Other rockets were being launched and recovered while we were getting ready. Taken by Kevin Weaver.

There were quite a few rockets launched that day. Most used the small Estes motors that are based on black powder. A few of the bigger ones used AeroTech or Estes motors that burn a black rubbery solid similar to what was used in the solid rocket boosters of the space shuttle.

On a side note - it is hard for us to believe that the space shuttle is no more. Heidi and I grew up when it was science's newest triumph. Now we watch the Space X rockets that can land and be reused. Times do change!

Weighing a rocket, 2015

Image: All rockets have to be weighed and checked for safety before launch. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

PARA, and the National Association of Rocketry, have strict safety rules. Do not let the laid-back demeanor of the Range Safety Officer fool you...

Launch pads, with glider ready to go, 2015

Image: Romily with her rocket at the launch pad. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

There were multi-stage rockets, a rocket with a glider, and yes, Romily's egg launcher. Model rockets are inexpensive and simple, but they still have a lot of variety.

6 rockets on the pad, 2015

Image: Romily getting help from the Range Safety Officer. He is hooking the electrical leads from the launch controller. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

Note - Romily's egg made it back to the ground unscathed. She was thrilled.

We launched eight rockets and got back all eight. One lost a piece. A second separated from its streamer, resulting in two fins getting torn off because it landed harder than it should have. We think we did pretty well.

Screwing the motor retainer in place, 2015

Image: Niko helps Kevin prepare the motor for our big rocket. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

The big blue and yellow rocket was on a G40 motor. It was the first time Kevin had launched a motor larger than an E9. It flew perfectly. It was also very loud. Most of the kids liked that, but the youngest one got a little scared. Note to self...

One pad empty, another to be in a split second, 2015

Image: The big rocket at the moment of liftoff. Taken by Kevin Weaver.

Happy kids with rockets, 2015

Image: Bea and Niko with their rockets. Taken by Heidi Weaver.

We think everyone had a great time. It was a shorter time that it might have been because the launch was on a Sunday. Our group attended church and then drove out to the site. The result was that Kevin was hard pressed to help all the kids get their rockets launched in the time available, but the folks from PARA decided to stay a little long into the afternoon, anyway.

four kids and a big blue rocket, 2015

Image: Niko and some of his sisters fetching our last rocket of the day. Taken by Heidi Weaver.