SOCO, IOW, Franklin students’ projects take to the sky

Published 11:37 am Friday, July 18, 2014

Whitman Clark, 9, of Capron, watches his rocket fire off. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Whitman Clark, 9, of Capron, watches his rocket fire off. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

SUFFOLK—Mixing gum, paint, string, glue, cardboard, plastic, paper, and oh, gunpowder may not normally be advised, but on Thursday the children who did just that had a blast.

Kasonte’ Ellerbe, 11, of Boykins, thought she might bring down some aliens. It inspired how she painted her rocket, with white splotches on it.

“I was thinking about aliens, and how it might look if a rocket hit them,” she said.

It didn’t go quite high enough to escape orbit, but Ellerbe knew it would not and she was just trying to have fun while learning a little about engineering.

“It was super cool,” she said. “I enjoyed building the rocket and then launching it.”

Her sister, Taja, 9, was also there.

“I like doing engineering and building things because you can get really creative with it,” she said. “It was also fun launching them because you got to see it go way up in the air.”

The Ellerbe sisters, along with many students from Franklin, Isle of Wight County, Southampton County and Suffolk, were at King’s Fork Middle School in Suffolk participating in the Tidewater Governor’s School, which serves are students grades 4-7 in science and technology. Liz Petry, the Tidewater region’s director, said students learned concepts related to flight all week in building the rockets, but they also learned other things.

“They had to be persistent and follow directions, as the kit was fairly complex,” she said. “They also had to be firm, and not give up. Sometimes the rocket did not work, and you had to figure out why and get that fixed.”

They also had to work in teams and on a deadline.

“Children are not always used to working on deadlines,” Petry said. “But they had to be done by Thursday morning, and this week included a field trip where they were not able to work.”

While Ellerbe was confident when she stepped up to launch her rocket, some others were a little nervous, including Dorothy Conner, 12, of Franklin. She was particularly nervous because her classmates had put the pressure on to make sure that the parachute deployed properly, and many had gone wrong that day.

“I was a little scared because I did not know if it would work,” she said about her rocket, which she had named Discovery after the space shuttle. “I was very excited to see it launch. And I was super glad that my parachute worked and it made my rocket come down safely.”

While Conner enjoyed launching it, putting it together was actually the most fun part.

“I liked putting it together and learning what each part does and why it is important,” she said. “Getting to paint it was also cool. We came outside with our rockets and there were just a bunch of cans of spray paint. It was fun.”

MacKenzie Griffith, 11, was also nervous — nervous that her rocket would not launch. And she got up there, pressed the button, and it stayed on the launching pad.

“My rocket was a dud,” the Windsor Middle School girl said with a laugh. “My engine was messed up — it would not fire with the igniter.”

So she took it back to the drawing board, and they fitted her rocket with a new ‘engine’ and tried again. Then she set it back up. Five, four, three, two, one were called out and she pressed the button.

“I was kind of scared again, but it worked out,” Griffith said. “I liked it a lot. Shooting rockets, high explosives, was very cool.”

Southampton Middle School’s Jacob Rhodes, 11, was also nervous about the parachute.

“I was nervous that the parachute would not come out because I wasn’t sure if I did it right,” he said. “It did come out but it didn’t stay together because I forgot to glue it in.”

But it turned out that Rhodes liked his way better.

“I painted it a bunch of different colors, so when it came spiraling down, it looked really cool,” he said.

Ten-year-old Miller Zurfluh’s rocket, which he painted red, white and blue and named America, also didn’t go completely according to plan.

“It was very fun, but my rocket did not make it,” the S.P. Morton student said. “It kind of burned up, but it was still exciting to launch it.”

Connor Karmilovich had done this before, so he wasn’t nervous. He is 9, but he already knows that he wants to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and become a mechanical engineer. Participating in the Tidewater Regional Governor’s School was great because it gave the S.P. Morton student an opportunity to build.

“I just like building things,” Karmilovich said. “The coolest part was when it launched and all of the smoke came out.”

It was hard to say what was more fun for Lillie Phillips, 12. Was it meeting all of the new cool people, or was it getting to build all of the cool stuff? She did know for sure that it beat staying home.

“Launching was pretty cool,” the Franklin girl said. “How often do you get to see rockets go up in the air? And how often can you say that it was something that you made?

“It was pretty amazing to do that.”

It was also hard to decide what it smelled like.

“It kind of smelled like burned popcorn,” Phillips said. “No, maybe it was burned pretzels. I’m not sure which one is worse.”

“No,” MacKenzie Griffith corrected her. “It smelled like fireworks and gunpowder.”

Miller Zurfluh concluded that it indeed “smelled a little like burned popcorn and fireworks.”