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Children Explore Rocketry At Edgewater Camp

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By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis

EDGEWATER, Md. (AP) — Not every summer camp has children ponder the nature of time and space after a day filled with paintball and sailing.

But at Camp Letts in Edgewater, rocketry is one of the popular daily activities — and probably not because of the cerebral questions posed by the instructor.

Children’s fondness for the subject has more to do with exploding Coke and water bottles, and watching model rockets soar into the sky.

“It was awesome, in a word,” said Jamie Murray, 11, of Bowie, after a 3-foot-long rocket zoomed 300 to 400 feet up this week. “It’s cool, especially in the sky, it looked like it was coming down on me.”

Before this summer, residential campers had to pay extra for rocketry. But this year, it was among the standard offerings, running an hour a day for a week with a maximum of six children per session.

“It’s quite a good class,” said Shaun Skinner of Scotland, one of two instructors. “It’s not a sport. It’s more of a mental thing, but it’s always popular.”

Skinner, 21, is in the process of earning a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering, so he was a perfect candidate to teach rocketry.

He began a session by using a tablet computer to illustrate a brief discussion of rockets.

What do you think a rocket is?” he asked the campers.

“Something you launch into space?” replied one girl.

“A rocket is a type of engine,” answered Skinner. “The oldest there is.”

He went on to explain how rockets date back to ancient China. Skinner also briefly discussed time and space. Heady subjects, but ones the children were eager to ponder — until it was time to make soda explode.

To demonstrate propulsion, Skinner had the children drop Mentos mints into 2-liter bottles of Coke. Almost instantly, giant carbonated streams rose into the air.

“My face is Coked,” a girl announced.

After the streams dissipated, the central issue on the minds of several children was who would get to finish off the remaining soda and mints. Both went quickly.

“(This) is interesting and I like it,” said Lillian Frew, 9, of Bethesda. “The one thing I don’t like is now I’m going to have a stomachache because I drank so much Coke.”

Skinner next showed how pressure can build up inside a system by placing vinegar and baking soda in a plastic bottle. He threw it against a wall, and the combined force shattered the bottom of the container.

“I don’t know what you did,” exclaimed an excited camper, “but wow!”

After that, it was time to launch a model rocket, so the group walked from a picnic area to an open field. “We’re such a diverse organization,” said Andrew Mason, the camp’s interim executive director. “Where can you get rugby and rocketry on the same field?”

The rocket took off high into the sky with a sizzle and a boom, climbing at about 90 miles per hour. Skinner had the campers provide a countdown before the launch.

Once the rocket reached its apex, the nose cone separated and parachuted back to the ground. The rest of the rocket landed a short distance away.

The class was an overview of what the campers will do during the week. They’ll also build water rockets, which Skinner didn’t have time to demonstrate Monday.

“I really like rockets,”‘ said Katherine Galvin, 12, of Potomac. “It’s interesting how things go up. Shaun’s a good teacher.”

Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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