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Ready for liftoff
Rocket project fuels creativity
Brent Moore and Abbi Campbell work on placing clay at the top of their two-liter bottle that will take flight as a rocket when it's filled with water and compressed air.

Bobby Ray students had a chance to launch themselves into a new level of learning last week.
A science fair at the school gave them the opportunity to build a rocket and see how high it could soar.
“There’s YSI, but other than that there are not a lot of enrichment activities here over the summer,” said Bobby Ray fifth-grade teacher Travis Martin, who organized the science fair. “Instead of complaining about it, I decided to do something about it.”
Martin utilized the services of Billy Hicks, a former NASA engineer and former professor at Motlow. Hicks taught the students the best way to build a rocket from an ordinary two-liter bottle then watched them work.
“Mass always leads,” said Hicks in telling students they needed to put most of the weight at the top of their rocket.
To illustrate his point, Hicks balanced a broom in the palm of his hand. When the broom bristles were in the air, it was much easier to balance. But when the broom bristles were touching his palm, it was more difficult to keep the broom from toppling.
“I tell them the best way to do it, then stand back and watch them go,” said Hicks. “If somebody builds it wrong, I let them build it wrong. That way they will see what happens and remember it. I’d rather for them to think for themselves than to stand over them and tell them exactly how to do it.”
Students were given clay, duct tape, and poster board and told to affix it to their two-liter bottle in the best way possible. Some listened and attached their clay to the top. Others taped their clay to the sides or near the bottom.
“I’ve never built a rocket before so I’m trying to do a good job,” said Abbi Campbell, who was working with partner Brent Moore.
Hicks told the students the importance of teamwork and collaborating with their partner to get the best results.
“You will never invent anything by yourself,” said Hicks. “You’ll always have a team. That’s why it’s great to learn about working together.”
To get the rockets to fly, students added three cups of water then turned the two liters upside down to rest on a launcher. That’s when compressed air was added. When the bottle opening was yanked open, the compressed air forced the water out and propelled the rocket skyward.
The best-made rockets with the clay on top approached heights of 60 feet. Other rockets barely passed 30 feet as determined by a trajectory tool.
“This teaches them about aerodynamics and the laws of motion,” said Martin. “We relate it back to the science standards we’re teaching.”
The two-day science camp was open to Bobby Ray students in grades 4-5. One camp was held Monday and Tuesday, with a second camp held Wednesday and Thursday. There were 10 students in each group.