A Roundup of the Rockets and Flight Demonstration

Science on Saturday Cartoon guy in RocketOn 4 October 2008, Science on Saturday launched two presentations about rockets and flight. Curtis Heisey, Jessica Olszta, and Mykel Kochenderfer of the Surveillance Systems Group welcomed eager young students to "Spaceship Lincoln Laboratory" in the auditorium and used colorful examples of the physics behind rocket flights.

Volunteers from the audience helped demonstrate Newton’s law of action and reaction by sending a big moving ball crashing onto a stationary ball, followed by balls of two different sizes. Heisey explained that the small lightweight balls represented rocket fuel exhaust moving quickly while the big heavy balls represented the rockets moving slowly.

Showing some physics laws in action, Kochenderfer did a magic act with a tablecloth that left dishes safely on the tabletop and bravely swung a bucket filled with water without spilling a drop. Likewise, Olszta gave a suspenseful demonstration of friction and gravity: she activated a pendulum swing that stopped just short of hitting her.

Students crowded the stage to pump up colorful noise-making balloons and released them to fly around the room, in a demonstration of stored energy, action/reaction, and escape velocity. Leaf blowers and balls of various sizes helped show the Bernoulli Effect, and in a final demonstration, Heisey called on volunteers for a rescue mission. By adding increasing amounts of water (and weight) to a model rocket with a toy passenger, Heisey and his young assistants from the audience were finally able to send the rocket to the ceiling on a "rescue mission."

Heisey made the point that any ten-year old can play a video game, but how many ten-year olds can build a rocket?  He had several ten-year olds share their rockets that they had built, and concluded that building a rocket is in the capability of a ten-year-old under the supervision and mentoring of their parents. Presentations of model rockets, information about rocket clubs, and instructions for safe handling of rockets rounded out the presentation.

One parent reported on Monday after the Science on Saturday,  "My six-year-old son went home and spent the whole day and half of Sunday playing with the blower getting different objects (balls, tennis-ball cartons, rockets made of cardboard tubes and tape) to fly or shoot into the air.  To say he was inspired is a bit of an understatement!"


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