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Kids get schooled in physics by launching rockets

rocket launchers

POCATELLO, Idaho - Volunteers from Idaho State University and the KIWANIS Club used bottle rockets to teach kids a lesson about physics today.

Kids filled Tydeman Park this weekend, turning it into a launch pad.

This is the first year ISU held its annual bottle rocket festival out in the park and open to the public, as kids of all ages got to come out to build rockets while learning about physics.

Steve Shropshire is a professor within the ISU Department of Physics. He said this gives these kids hands-on experience with science as some of his physics students came out to give a tutorial of some "basic" principles.

"A lot of physics goes into what makes a really good rocket," Shropshire said. "We talked about air friction, how to minimize that, stability, center of mass, and a lot of good, basic physics and engineering concepts at the elementary and middle school level."

Although this might not sound as if it would be "basic" to some of the kids, Shropshire said a lot of these concepts come naturally to kids.

"Everybody has a good idea of how to put things together. I think everybody walks in knowing that you need to make things streamlined in order to make it work well. We're just trying to put that into science concepts to make some linkages with the kids."

Shropshire said what makes a good, successful rocket is one that is streamlined, aerodynamic, with a high center of mass within the rocket, and low fins to provide good torque. 

Basically, this means making sure your rocket looks exactly like what you'd imagine a real rocket to look like.

Families gathered together to tape-up used plastic soda bottles, filled them with water, and watched to see how far up the rockets launched.

In this instance, rocket staff members measured the time it took for the rocket to maintain airborne before hitting the ground again to determine the winner.

No records were set this year, but the longest time today stood at eight seconds.

This event was also sponsored not only by ISU, but by Pocatello's KIWANIS Club as well.

The club held its 64th annual pancake breakfast to raise money for youth groups around the Gate City.

KIWANIS member Rich Smith said this weekend, they served between 2,000 and 2,200 people and are hoping to have raised $10,000 for this year's upcoming activities.

"We hope to bring people to our picnic breakfast and also to hopefully get the kids excited to learn a little bit about science and physics," Smith said.

This year, the department provided enough materials to make 200 rockets, and 140 were used.

Smith also said the KIWANIS Club is still looking for members, so those interested in joining can meet at Perkins Restaurant every Wednesday at noon.

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