Up, up and away! Longtime favorite class launches rockets

Published 5:03 pm Friday, August 4, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Rockets were visible at Southwest Middle School in both the morning and evening Thursday, as roughly 50 students ranging from second grade through high school participated in a rocketry class this week.

Each 50-minute class started Monday at Albert Lea High School, with students given three days to build their rocket and Thursday serving as launch day.

According to instructor Ken Fiscus, who also serves as a ninth-grade earth and space science teacher at the high school, the goal of the class was to teach construction techniques and safe launching while also introducing students to model rocketry.

Email newsletter signup

He also wants to show students how fun science and engineering can be.

“Science changed my life,” he said. “That gave me a career. I almost became an astronaut.”

The variety of students and rockets was what kept him teaching the class.

Monday Fiscus introduced students to the three basic rules of rocketry: Not doing something if you didn’t know what you were doing, having fun and not panicking.

“The most important one of all is don’t panic, cause we can almost always figure out a solution,” he said.

Students also started constructing the interior of their rockets that would hold the engine.

Wednesday students worked on the parachute/streamer, which is used to recover a rocket after launch. They also started decorating the exterior.

Fiscus described reaction to the class as “great.”

“People love it,” he said. “The kids have a great time — you can hear them running down the halls as they’re coming to the room.”

He was particularly happy 40% of the class was made up of girls.

“Science and math isn’t just for boys,” he said.

He also said students planned to return for next year’s camp.

Above all, he hoped students gained confidence and developed their problem-solving skills while not being embarrassed to ask for help

Thursday was launch day, with one session from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and the other session starting at 7 p.m.

Fiscus started model rocketry back in 1980.

Owen Reed, an incoming eighth-grader, has been involved in the rocketry camps for several years.

“They just seemed fun by the start, and once you keep on going you can’t stop,” he said.

Reed — whose favorite part of doing these was observing how high his rockets went — plans to attend next year’s camp.

The class has also taught him not to panic.

Steve Reed, Owen’s grandfather, was there.

“[My grandchildren] really enjoy the classes with Mr. Fiscus,” he said. “He is awesome.”

He enjoyed seeing the kids’ excitement while attempting to catch them.

Max Hall, who will be going into sixth grade, was participating in his first camp.

“I’ve never launched a rocket before, and I’ve always wanted to,” he said.

Mandy Hall, Max’s mother, admitted she was excited when she learned Max wanted to do the class.

She was also surprised by how many people were involved as well as the amount of help Fiscus was offered.

“It’s a great program and everybody should give it a try,” she said.

The class was broken up into four different levels of model rocket construction.

Rockets were launched at two separate times, with one group launching that morning and the other Thursday evening.

Fiscus has taught rocketry through Albert Lea Community Ed for 32 years. By his estimation, he’s taught roughly 2,500 students.

All rockets were provided by Pitsco Education.