Propulsion with Kids

I had an opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon with my nephew, DJ Turnure. It was a special day for DJ and me because we got to assemble an Estes Rocket and go fly it in a very special place in Huntsville. You might say, “Big deal, Pickens. What is so earth-shattering about flying a model rocket with a kid?” Well, this was not just any kid, and it was not just any place we flew.

DJ is only 6 years old and he loves science and math! In fact, in the Seattle school he attends, he is top of his class in math. What was really cool also is that DJ has never gotten to see a model rocket fly, and he has certainly never gotten to help assemble one or press the button followed by the loud swoosh! Well, Saturday was his lucky day. I decided to take him and his dad, Doug, to the local hobby shop to pick the perfect rocket project. My requirement was that it had to be one that could fly no higher than 500 feet. It was so windy, and the field I wanted to fly in was fairly small.

DJ picked out a really cool rocket, and we ran by my mancave to pick up things like a launcher, a control box. etc. I then carried us all to the old Huntsville Airport. This place was really special to my heart because back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I was just starting to fly model rockets with friends. I had a dream to someday make a living possibly with rockets, but no one could have ever believed my journey would have been so cool. I remember when many friends and family members would oblige my request to join me for launches at this site. The rockets were cardboard and rarely did anything cool, but my sister, mother, friends, and other family members would still come out on a Saturday just to see me send one skyward, just to see me run to retrieve it just like all the other folks who caught the rocket bug.

“The Rocket Bug” is what I hope DJ gets out of launching rockets this weekend with his Uncle Tim. Maybe he will grow up someday to be a mathmatician and solve some problem like gravity reduction, warp drive, or safe fusion. I do know one thing: he and I both had a blast and he did a lot of hard running to chase rockets that were launched on a windy day! Sometimes it really feels good to revisit your past and share some experiences and remind yourself of where you have been!