Launch pad active at Pine River

LEROY — Rockets were being launched one after the other at Pine River High School last Friday, Oct. 28. It wasn’t used as a government test site or some sort of a proving ground, but it was a neat experience for a number of physics students to see if their studies and hard work paid off. And it appeared to be fun.

The rockets were built from kits that consisted of popsicle sticks, glue and tissue paper. They had four days in which to construct them, according to teacher Terry Martin, and some were still making adjustments just before launch, or after they were unable to get liftoff first try.

Martin said that the glue used has a reputation of being good for various projects, however, after spending their class time building their rocket, some came in the next morning to find the glue had not set. “The construction allowed for basic engineering, studying the center of mass and aerodynamics, and the launch lets them measure the variables such as distance and angles,” he noted. The students were assigned specific responsibilities before leaving the building, then traded off throughout the morning so they experienced all aspects of the project, then could return to the classroom and “take all those numbers and equations out of the book and understand what they meant and why.” Rockets were various sizes, with some students adding heft to the base and others adding to the length of their rocket instead. Each had a C6-5 rocket engine and students were responsible for plugging the electrical igniter to the rocket, then at launch that ignition would provide the thrust to power the rocket. Some of the students were in Martin’s seventh grade enrichment class and now are students in his high school physics class. Most are juniors. He noted that the tricky part for many students in building their rocket was in shaping the cone and the wings. He predicted that most rockets would travel anywhere from 80 to 100 feet. He said the students questioned what might fly best, “but I had to say I’ve seen some that I thought would do great, and they fizzled, but I also saw some that I was sure there was not a chance, and they did a super job. You just don’t know. Some may fly but not straight. Others may fly and get glue all over. Attaching the fins to them is a real feat, and often the glue wasn’t sticky enough, and they had trouble with that. But they worked hard.” Now it was test time. The day was cold and the conversation to the launch site varied among the “pilots,” ranging from, “Somebody’s gonna get hit by a rocket,” to “Mine will probably go straight — down.” Martin stressed the importance of watching the rocket at launch and seeing where it goes, noting that the first few feet are determined by the launch rod, but once it’s beyond that, everyone needs to know exactly where it is.” Warnings for launch time were carefully heeded. For the most part, the rockets launched as they should have, but when one failed to ignite, it took just a bit of tweaking, the removal of a popsicle stick, and a couple of twists on the rest, to make the second attempt good. Martin said Fred Heurtebise had his rocket travel “well over 400 feet. We temporarily lost sight of it so we were unable to tell exactly how high it reached.” Michael Green launched his rocket 315 feet earlier in the day, which Martin said, “was one of the best we’ve ever had in class.” It’s likely that Heurtebise, now top rocket builder, had his disappear in the snow that was falling during much of the launch time that day, but fortunately didn’t cause the launches to be scrubbed because of inclement weather. Next semester the students will be constructing wind turbines.