It wasn't exactly Cape Canaveral, but the sight of several dozen rockets flying into the sky on Saturday seemed to fill the small crowd of Ravalli County 4-H kids with just as much glee as seeing a real NASA launch.
For the second year in a row, the Montana Outlaws 4-H County Rocket Launch brought together science and fun, and it was clear that rockets make for possibly the best outdoor classroom day many of the kids could envision.
As each kid carefully placed the ignition wires on the bottom of their rocket while the assembled crowd waited with nervous anticipation behind yellow caution tape. After a brief countdown, one lucky youngster would hit the firing button and the rocket would disappear high into the sky with a swoosh of burning chemicals and smoke.
"It's fun when you get to launch them," said 10-year-old Tim Morin of Hamilton. "And sometimes they wreck."
After each rocket reached its apex, a parachute would fire and two more excited youngsters, part of the recovery team, would race out into the field to try to catch their rocket before it crash landed in the dirt. Several of the youngsters made incredible diving catches to prevent their quarry from disintegrating in an explosion of dirt and plastic.
"It's amazing how fast you can get them to go when they are having fun," said event organizer Sara Morin. "When you ask them to do something around the house they never move that fast."
The rocket launch event was made possible in party by a grant from GSK in Hamilton, Morin said. There was also a donation bin at the event bound for Haven House.
"This is a great way for kids to learn physics," Morin explained between launches. "Newton's second law really comes into play here.
They also learn safety. It's really a great teaching tool, and as you can see the kids have a great time."
The highlight of the day for many of the kids was a miniature outhouse, complete with bullet holes and fake flies, that was launched skyward. The top blew off the contraption on it's maiden voyage, rendering it useless for any further launches.
"It's really one of the more popular events we do every year," Morin said. "You can't go wrong with rockets."
For more information on the Outlaws, contact the extension office at 375-6611 or call the Morin family at 961-5226.
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Reporter David Erickson can be reached at 363-3300 or email@example.com.