4-H'ers shoot for success in rocket contest

August 02, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Two squirming boys listened to the countdown, ready to push the button that would send the homemade rockets shooting into the sky.

They waited for 15-year-old Jason Everly of Union Bridge to say "Five, four, three, two, one -- fire."

Justin Taylor, 9, and Craig Taylor, 7, both of Westminster, took turns pushing a button, attached to a wire, hooked to a car battery, to provide power to send the rockets flying. The electricity set off the dry fuel packed in each rocket.

One rocket after another flew straight -- usually -- into the afternoon sky at the annual rocket competition at the 4-H/FFA Fair, which opened yesterday.

The rockets came in all sizes and colors, and all were built by 4-H'ers. The competition drew 26 entrants and lasted several hours.

Families observed from lawn chairs and under umbrellas, sipping lemonade and munching sandwiches, as their children's rockets arched over a field at the Ag Center.

Jacques Gachot, 11, of Finksburg brought the United States Starship, a 3 1/2 -foot, red, white and blue cardboard rocket with a plastic nose and balsa fins. He was a little worried about it surviving a launch:

"I don't want this thing to break."

He said his father got him interested in building rockets.

Chip Gachot said the space program was popular when he was young. He and his friends sent up rockets with cameras, eggs, even mice inside, he said.

"It's a blast to watch them," Mr. Gachot said. "You try to create something that will slip through the air."

Laura Young, 11, of Union Mills entered a small rocket for the first time. Her father also had a hand in the construction.

The competition was as organized as a NASA operation. Jason Everly took his cue to start the countdown from his father, Joe, who was standing about 1,000 feet away, behind a line of trees.

With help from his father-in-law, Jim Gallagher of Westminster, surveyor Joe Everly measured how high each rocket blasted.

He watched the rocket until it released a puff of smoke, signaling that it had reached its highest point. He then used a surveying instrument to measure the angle and a calculator to determine the height.

He used a citizen band radio to relay the height for each rocket to Jason, who was sitting near the launch pad. The younger Everly took grand champion awards in the rocket competition in 1990 and 1991, and no longer competes.

Kathy Everly was posted near her son and recorded the results.

One year, a rocket reached 2,100 feet, Mr. Everly said. Many reach 1,500 feet.

Before the launch, Allan Taylor of Westminster judged each rocket for craftsmanship.

"We try to be a little critical, but in a nice way," he said.

At least 20,000 people are expected to attend the fair this week, 4-H Extension Service Agent Robert M. Shirley said. More than 600 4-H'ers have entered about 10,000 projects.

Today, a parade is scheduled at 7 p.m., to be followed at 8 p.m. by the Farm Queen Contest and entertainment by a barbershop quartet.

Admission to the fair is free.

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