Aerospace classes launch lots of fun

Photo by Mild Du Sam Jens, 4-H youth development coordinator for Lyon County, helps Adi Peterson launch her rocket during Aerospace class at Legion Field on Tuesday.

MARSHALL — You can tell when it’s launch time at the Lyon County 4-H’s aerospace classes, Sam Jens said.

Parents will arrive before the end of class, just to watch and cheer as kids send rockets made of pop bottles and other household materials shooting into the sky.

“They’ll launch 40 to 50 feet into the air,” said Jens, the 4-H youth development coordinator for Lyon County.

This month, Jens has been leading aerospace classes in Marshall and Tracy. The program got its start after 4-H found there was a need for more opportunities for youth to learn STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, he said. In the rockets class, kids learn more about how rockets fly.

“We experiment with building different types of rockets,” Jens said.

The youths build rockets made from straws, paper stomp rockets, and pump-powered rockets made from plastic bottles.

Lyon County 4-H held its first rocket classes in 2020, and the program has grown in popularity since then, Jens said. This summer, there were a total of 41 kids across the county enrolled in the classes.

“It’s a really unique experience,” Jens said.

The youths not only learn about rocket-powered flight, but they get hands-on exposure to engineering.

“It’s really fun to watch them go through the scientific process of trial and error,” he said.

Students in the classes make their own choices on how to design and build their rockets, and then they see how those rockets fly. Sometimes, that means an experiment won’t work, or a rocket’s fins won’t stay on. But Jens said the kids learn from each other.

“They’re good about using teamwork,” and sharing ideas, he said.

“It’s really fun watching the kids progress,” Jens said.

And when family members show up to cheer for the rocket launches, it adds to the fun.


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