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4-H members learn by launching rockets

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By Cathy Toole

Henry County Extension Service

On Thursday, July 14, 13 youth attended the first day of the two-day Rocket Days program. This day was spent learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion and building rockets.
Upon first arriving at the extension office, youth each had to glue together their own Estes Rocket since it took over two hours for the glue to dry. After that was finished, youth participated in a discussion about the Laws of Motion: 1. An object at rest will remain at rest, and one in motion will remain in motion, unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force; 2. The force needed to accelerate an object equals the mass of the object multiplied by its acceleration; and 3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. These three laws were then applied to how rockets move.
Afterwards, the youth were able to build their first rocket. These rockets were made out of drinking straws, milkshake straws and address labels. These rockets were launched by blowing air through the straws. While very simple, the youth were able to experiment with different body tube lengths and different fin shapes. Upon completion of this activity, the differences between center of gravity and center of pressure of rockets was shared. It was determined that the center of gravity must be above the center of pressure. Center of gravity could be manipulated by making a heavier nose cone or making the rocket longer, while the center of pressure could be changed by the size and placement of the fins.
Using this knowledge, the youth moved on to their second rocket. This rocket was made out of cardstock and other various items. The youth were tasked with developing a rocket that could land within a target, simulating the potential of using a rocket to transport a payload to a specific location. The youth formed teams and built rockets of different sizes, shapes of fins, and number of fins.
The last rocket the youth built was the Estes Rockets. After the plastic cement dried, rocket parts were discussed with the youth, such as the body tube, payload and fins. The youth finalized the finishing touches on the rockets by adding a recover system. After building the rockets, the youth proceeded outdoors for launching. First a rocket was launched that went at least 1,000 feet out of sight. After that each individual was able to launch their own rocket.
To complete the day, Levi Berg, Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, built and launched a water bottle rocket built from a two-liter bottle and cardboard fins. This rocket was launched through a combination of air and water pressures.
The second day, Friday, July 15, was spent at the Lexington Living Arts and Science Center. Youth were able to participate in three different programs. The first program allowed the youth to use interactive displays to see what astronauts wear in space, build constellations and learn about the planets. Following this program, the youth visited the planetarium to watch “Back to the Moon For Good.” After the video, youth were shown different constellations in the planetarium. Lastly, the youth had the opportunity to build mini lunar rovers and see which one was the most successful in traveling.
The youth enjoyed the two-day program building rockets and learning about space.