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Event launches enthusiasm in children





All eyes were on the sky Saturday afternoon as dozens of kids watched for signs of the rockets they had launched from the Ellis County Fairgrounds.

"Mine went like, 'Whoosh,' " said 4-year old Josiah Hill, waving his hand through the air.

"Mine went way far," his 3-year old brother, Silas, said without hesitation.

The community rocket launch got Space Week events off the ground, as Fort Hays State University Science and Mathematics Education Institute, Department of Geosciences and Forsyth Library prepared for a full week of activities.

Featured during the week will be an exhibit of NASA posters from the 1970s and 1980s on display at Forsyth Library. Tiles from space shuttles, space food and camera mounts used in space shuttle missions also will be on display.

The annual community rocket launch, organized by FHSU professors Paul Adams and John Heinrichs, has been a draw for local children for seven years, allowing children the opportunity to have hands-on experience with rocket science.

"The little kids get a chance to see how it works and catch an interest in something exciting," said Heinrichs' wife, Maureen Duffy. "It's fun and wholesome."

As she watched one of her own rockets disappear above the clouds while several children ran across the field, anticipating where it would land, Duffy related a bit of rocket philosophy.

"There's a thing that they say ... if you don't want to lose your rocket, don't launch it," Duffy said.

For Heinrichs, an enthusiasm for rocketry started in his teen years and was rekindled when he joined the FHSU faculty.

"I had this love of rockets from way back, so we (Heinrichs and Adams) started launching with the Boy Scouts," he said. "People have a great time."

For others who might have an interest in rocketry and other scientific endeavors, an upcoming local hands-on science opportunity for youth is an informal scientific program which meets Thursday nights.

Facilitated by a NASA educator, the program offers aerospace activities for scouts or other youth-centered groups. Information regarding the program is available by calling (785) 628-4168.