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Youths use water power to launch bottle rockets

August 03, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Rocket science is a piece of cake for Joshua Hurd.

"The design is the most important part," said Hurd, 13, whose bottle rocket was among the highest fliers Friday afternoon when participants in a rocketry class fired off their creations at the softball field at Hagerstown Community College.

Hurd's rocket was light and small, two factors he said were key to its flight.

"It was not heavy, which is important," he said.

Hurd said he built his rocket out of a small water bottle he had left over from lunch the day before.

"Worked pretty good," Hurd said. "It didn't break."

The class, which drew 14 local middle-schoolers, was part of HCC's College for Kids program, which offers a variety of weeklong summer courses for youths from first through 10th grades. Hurd's class was called "Discovery Science! Flight, Space, Travel and Rocketry!"

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"They all had a lot of fun with it," instructor Cindy Dove said. "They're really smart kids, so they were always thinking of ways to do things differently."

Ben Shuster, 13, of Hagerstown, said he had to tweak his rocket's design after the first one didn't fly well.

"My first rocket didn't go very high, so I redesigned the fins," he said.

Shuster estimated that his second rocket, which had longer fins that ran the length of the bottle, went between 50 and 60 feet into the air.

"It flew pretty good," Shuster said. "I'm happy."

Rockets came in all shapes and sizes on Friday. Some were thin, one-piece units, while others were bulky creations with tubes attached to the sides. But no matter the rocket's style, the science behind getting them in the air was the same, Dove said.

Each rocket was placed on the launcher and filled with 100 milliliters of water. Then, air was pumped into the rocket with a tire pump to create pressure. After removing a safety pin, the youths pulled a 20-foot string to release the anchors and let their bottles fly.

"It's pretty basic, really," Dove said. "But some will fly better than others."

Aaron Snell, 12, of Waynesboro, Pa., tried to launch his rocket twice on Friday. The first time, it didn't make it off the launcher. The second time, it took a quick 5-foot hop to the right before flopping to the ground.

Snell immediately knew what was wrong.

"Basically, there's just way too much tape," said Snell, holding his three-piece rocket, which was completely wrapped in Scotch tape. "It was too heavy, I guess."

Kyle Martin, 12, of Hagerstown, said he knew his rocket, which was modeled to look like a space shuttle, probably wouldn't fly. But he said he wasn't concerned.

"I built it for looks," Martin said. "I knew it wouldn't go very high, but I had a lot of fun."

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