I was out of the area last month when Vaughn Elementary School’s “Werhner von Braun” — fourth-grade teacher Doug Smith — staged his annual rocket launch.
“All of the students were fourth-graders,” he said. “All of the adults were honorary fourth-graders. You probably didn’t know fourth-grade teachers can let you be an honorary fourth-grader for a rocket launch.”
This is the first time I’ve not been one of them. Shucks!
Seventy-four students from Smith and Ann Puckett’s fourth-grade classes and Mary Ganisin’s third- and fourth-grade split class launched Alpha rockets. Principal Susan O’Leary, the master of ceremonies, led the crowd in a countdown and launched the first rockets.
“The best part was launching and catching my green rocket,” fourth-grader Kassidy Young said. “When I caught it, it was smoky and smelling of rotten eggs.”
Alexis Moore said the best part was trying to catch it. She admitted she was “as confused as a chameleon in a bag of skittles when everybody was pointing in different directions to where my rocket was.”
Cassie Stephens liked building them.
“To build a rocket, you will need a shock cord, nose cone, launch lug, engine holder, fins and a parachute.”
She learned that having a parachute is important, “because if you don’t, the rocket falls down faster, and if it has a parachute, it will fall slower so you can catch it.”
Kincaid Tyas thought the launch was amazing.
“When you see the rockets launch, you see flames and smoke,” Tyas said.
Classmate Kyre’e Peralez thought the most exciting part was when they were trying to catch the body tube and the parachute tied to the nose cone.
“Rockets are fantastic to build,” Kody Young said.
Chayse Ferencik thought “it was very fun to lunge and catch my rocket.”
For Aiyanaa Burke, “the most exciting part is when I pressed the button and then went running to catch the rocket. All you see is a rocket going up, then you lose it, and you see it, then you run and try to catch it. My rocket went up as fast as a jet.”
Jane Oliveira liked it when she counted down from five to blast off and launched her rocket.
Natalie Langhelm “could not believe that those cool rockets went as fast as the wind.”
Rachel Aspee liked it “when Jacob caught his rocket,” and Jacob Higgenbottom liked it when his rocket popped out its nose cone and the parachute came out, and it gently floated down until he caught it.
Joey Cusick liked assembling his rocket and learning the engine holder is built before the fins are put on.
“After that,” Cusick said, “the parachute is attached to the nose cone.”
“The Alpha rocket has three fins, is 12 inches tall and is 1 inch in diameter,” Madison Sailly said.
Kenny O’Toole added: “The most amazing part of our rocket launch was when I caught my rocket with my fingertips.”
The best place to launch a rocket is at Vaughn Elementary because of how the wind blows on the lower field, Drew Hook advised.
“The flames of the rockets blaze as bright as the sun,” Kayla Sabol said.
She and Javier Macias liked it when their principal led the school in the countdown and launched the first two rockets.
Nolan Littleton learned that the shock cord holds the nose cone and rocket body together when the nose cone comes off and ejects the parachute.
Lucas Blanchette liked launching rockets with his “cool classmates,” and Moriah Redford liked everything she did when she built her rocket.
“It’s amazing to learn stuff like that,” she said.
Blaine Monson liked learning that, “after the engine pushes the rocket into the air, it waits four seconds, and then pushes out the nose cone and the parachute.”
Smith credited photographer Ryan Tyas and volunteer dad Junior Young and Phil Van Amber, who helped students launch the rockets, and Colleen Young, who helped students find their rockets in the sky so they could catch them.
That is a neat trick. When those alpha rockets take off at more than 100 mph, the wee things vanish into the blue. I almost never can spot them.
“It was truly an incredible event,” Smith said. “When it started to rain, no one complained, and we just kept launching and catching our rockets.”
To fourth-grader Olivia Gehrke, the most exciting part “was just to go up there and push that button down and watch our soaring rocket go up and up, and then go down and hit the ground.”Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@ centurytel.net.