Stagecoach Park isn’t quite the same as Cape Canaveral, but it did well as a stand-in for the Olathe Library’s rocketry and aerospace camp. The teen summer camp launched more than a dozen rockets the kids built themselves.
Teen librarian Angela Parks came up with the idea to go with the library’s summer reading theme “A Universe of Stories.”
Because rocket launching can get dangerous, Parks enlisted the help of Blake Goddard from the Emerald City Rocket Club in DeSoto. He spent the week teaching the kids how to build their rockets and brought his own remote-launching equipment to the park last Thursday.
“If I can get someone else excited about getting off the Earth and going exploring the rest of the universe, I will do it any day and twice on Sunday,” he said.
The kids judged each rocket on whether the parachute deployed, how long it stayed in the air and whether the raw egg packed into its nosecone was cracked when they retrieved it after its flight.
For the last 12 years, Goddard has been teaching rocket-building as a volunteer for 4-H, local schools and scout troops.
“In the era of video games and cell phones and being inside all the time, getting out, getting a hobby and being able to make something with your hands is a big deal,” he said.
The teens glued fins onto their model rocket tubes and designed their own parachutes, based on the lessons from Goddard.
Olathe resident Nina Piper, 11, discovered that “it matters how many strings it (the parachute) has,” she said.
Goddard said one of the most important skills he’s trying to teach is critical thinking. For parachutes, that means weighing pros and cons of the possible number of strings and the length of the chute.
“If you’ve got a bigger chute in there, you’re going to have more weight. If you’ve got more strands, you’ve got less chance of failure, but you’ve also got greater chances of it getting knotted up and getting tangled,” Goddard said.
They also covered aerodynamics and the history of rocketry.
Some of the kids were just there because it was something fun to do, but for others, it could be the start of a career.
“I’m usually quite interested in space and what’s beyond Earth,” said Olathe resident Grace Stinson, 11.
Being an astronaut isn’t in her plan, though.
“I want to be the person that builds and engineers the rocket,” Grace said.
Twelve-year-old Jillian Brownlee, who lives in Olathe, also enjoyed constructing her rocket.
“I have imagined what it would be like to build a big, fancy rocket and see it go up in the air,” she said. “I have always thought rockets were cool.”
Goddard was impressed with the group.
“They’re patient. They’re intelligent. They’re calm. That’s all something that I wish we could get more adults to be that way,” he said. “I wish that everyone that I work with had the same ‘discover the world’ mentality that they do.”