My son, age 7, (and to a lesser extent my daughter, age 5), and I have
recently taken up model rocketry as a fun, parent-child hobby. I'm not real
sure how I got into this: one day I got home from work and my wife said "Don't
forget your rocketry class with Brandon, tonight". Turns out they had signed
us up for a community-ed class in which we built and launched an Estes Alpha.
Brandon and I had such a ball with this that we went out shortly thereafter
and bought an Estes Sizzler Starter Kit. (Shortly thereafter, I discovered
this news group.) Since then we've built a half-dozen or so models and
launched them a few times. Brandon has built a particularly simply model (the
Alpha III) essentially by himself (Dad just read the instructions and offered
some advice). This experience led to the subject of this little note.
Since Brandon was able to build the Alpha III so easily, we thought it would
be fun to sponsor a meeting of his "Tiger Cubs" den in which we would build
rockets and then launch them. (Tiger Cubs is "Cub Scouts" for first graders.)
Each parent-child team chipped in a few bucks and I trekked down to the local
hobby store and picked up a half-dozen Estes Alpha III's, some paint, brushes
and motors. We met last Wednesday evening and assembled the kits. (As an
aside, it's really interesting to watch parent-child teams tackle something
like this. On some teams, the kid really did a major portion of the work; on
others the parent did it all. In addition to having fun, I really learned
something about developing more patience with my kids, just by observing the
interactions of others. Ahem .. well .. back to my story ...). The assembly
went pretty smoothly. The only real problem was the guy that connected up the
shroud lines to the parachute incorrectly, but we managed to recover.
Saturday afternoon was the big launch. We met in the sports field behind a
nearby Jr. High. I gave everybody the necessary supplies and showed them how
to pack the recovery wadding and parachute. Then they each got an A8-3 and an
igniter. It was a beautiful sunny day, with high puffy white clouds; there
was a light breeze from the NE. We set up the launcher, tipped the rod
slightly into the wind and got down to business. Six perfect launches, most
of which landed within a couple hundred feet of the launcher.
The kids loved it. One of the parents said "I thought they'd go higher than
that." In the second round I gave them B6-6's. We loaded 'em up (one Mom got
confused and put the recovery wadding in the engine mount and stuffed it up
hard against the engine retaining clip; we managed to get it out) and set up
for the second round. Six more perfect launches, although this time they
drifted somewhat farther. Two of the rockets drifted out of the field and
landed in the front yards of some adjacent houses. One of them narrowly
missed the center fielder of a little league team practicing at the far end of
the field. It was a bit of a hike, but all rockets were safely recovered.
Everyone seemed impressed, including the parent that was hoping for more
I had some C6-7's in my field box, and I was really tempted, but the wind was
picking up a bit so I decided against it. As we were packing up, one of the
kids asked me about the cost of a launcher, etc. I think I've started another
father/son team on the road to a model rocketry hobby.
... and a good time was had by all.
Jeff Clark Honeywell Systems and Research Center Minneapolis, MN
DISCLAIMER: If you think I speak for my employer, you need serious help ...