Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rocket Dad

Marching band season is over. My son’s band had its last home football game awhile ago. At the regional competition they placed fourth out of fifteen in their division. I thought my weekends were now my own. Wrong. This weekend was the start of the rocket club season.

A few years back, the National Association of Rocketry started the Team America Rocketry Challenge for school-aged kids to develop more interest in the hobby. That rocketry is tied to math and science makes it an easy sell to schools. Civil Air Patrol chapters and Explorer troops also enter.

For the competition, each team must design and launch a rocket that reaches a specified height and the flight (including the parachute landing) must last a certain length. This year the goals are 850 feet and 45 seconds. Oh, and the rocket must hold an egg which has to land unbroken. When the team has it perfect, they have only two launches they can submit to the competition to qualify for the national championships.

To get the kids going, the faculty advisor has them each design and build their own rocket first. My son built one about 2-1/2 feet tall that holds two rocket engines or “motors” as the jargon calls them. A local rocketry club has launches once a month at a local park. The club lets the students use the club's launchers for test trials.

On my son’s first launch, the rocket lost its parachute and plummeted to the ground. The rocket landed mostly intact, but the egg was nothing but a runny orange mess inside the rocket body. The second launch, which is the one in the video, with a borrowed parachute, went straight up and practically landed right back on the pad.

How does this affect me? It means I must now a bunch of Saturdays between now and April hanging around the various rocketry sites while the kids fine tune their rocket design. All you soccer moms and hockey dads think of me as your kids are playing their indoor winter sports while I spend the frigid weekends of the next few months keeping my neck craned up watching out for falling rockets.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: What sort of whacky activities have your kids dragged you into? Or, if you don't have kids, what have you forced others to watch you do?


Your Mother said...

Rocket club would be awesome! they didn't have this cool stuff when I was a kid.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

I had rockets my whole childhood and LOVED them. My favorite was a glider that would eject its engine at its apex and spend the next 10 minutes slowly descending in a huge circle over our entire neighborhood. I painted it blaze orange so I could follow it.

We never got into the science of it like your son, but I would have been right there with him if we had any programs like that. I dunno, I get the feeling you enjoy this a little more than you're letting on.

Anonymous said...

I was actually in Civil Air Patrol when I was a teenager and did these rocket launches. It was great, although I have to admit most of mine were spectacular failures. My mother was forced to watch, but only because she was a CAP member as well. I also did drill team and color guard with them, but that's a different thing.

So far none of my kids have done anything 'whacky' - I've been forced to sit through endless rehearsals for talent shows (which explains my loathing of The Backstreet Boys), but nearly everything else has been sports related.

Anonymous said...

I've only had to sit through a large variety of musical and theater programs, so brilliant, some atrocious.

Actually, I'm surprised that model rocketry is even still possible or allowed in the US. Don't you need a dozen federal permits for every motor? Isn't everyone involved automatically a suspected terrist? I was sure the paranoia had wiped this out for good.

Anonymous said...

As a noncustodial parent, I usually only get the tail end of these things. I attend the play or the dance recital but I don't get to go to the rehearsals.

Of course, for most people "dance recital" means a raised platform and a little old lady at the piano (or the mike head up against a boom box). In my daughter's case it was a seat at the Westbury Music Fair and watching 25 other acts hit the stage before my own kid appeared.

yellojkt said...

You're on to me. I'm just afraid the novelty is going to wear of. It's definitely not an activity I would be attending otherwise.

My dad, who I dragged to the rocketry thing, was wondering why the site wasn't crawling with either terrorist trainees or Homeland Security moles. There are limits on the size of rocket engines you can buy, but they tend to be pretty big.

That music festival looks very cool with a lot of big name acts...and your daughter. What great exposure.

Anonymous said...

First off, I remember back in the day when we were setting these rockets off, and some of the funniest moments happened when things went awry. Like the guy who thought it'd be fun to set off one of those engines/motors without the benefit of a rocket to go in -- that was the fastest I'd ever seen anything go not in a straight line. Around a tree, in the house (window pane), out of the house (same window pane), past us a second time, and across the road. The rockets that would go up only a few feet, turn and impale the ground were funny, only because the second stage goes off like a sparkler, and then the final "Poomp!" of the parachute charge... Those were funny.

Re: Dragged -- When my stepson was young, various sports. Basketball was the clincher, as the coach of the kids decided he needed a life that didn't involve coaching, and by the third practice and the first game without a coach, I was "recruited" to coach. I was lousy, but they were young. Seven years later, I was good, but they were lousy. There was a stepdaughter involved, and by the time she wanted to play, it was junior high level girls - the girls that never touched a ball in their lives and the others that were athletic as could be - but that had blown out knees at the ripe age of 13. I had three of those girls on one squad. I got roped into that coaching gig when the mother/coach of one of the girls wigged out. I made a vow never to coach girl sports again.

Anonymous said...

You know three high schools in Palm Beach County, Florida, have TARC team, right? Boynton Beach High School, Park Vista High School, and Spanish River High School are all competing this year. We drive out to Belle Glade and launch with the Tripoli West Palm branch of the National Association of Rocketry

trusty getto said...

That's way cool, YJ. I have a great video of my neighbor shooting off a water-propelled rocket, but the video is sideways, because I took it with my camera, and to make the frame vertical, I unthinkingly rotated the camera 90 degrees. Now, I can't figure out how to rotate the video and make it upright.

I'm a genius, ain't I?