Rockne Roll/News-Register##Ian Hale, Jake Green and Austin Lujan paint their model rockets last Friday, the final day of Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum’s model rocket camp.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Ian Hale, Jake Green and Austin Lujan paint their model rockets last Friday, the final day of Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum’s model rocket camp.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Bianca Weiser, 12, carefully paints the tail fin of her craft. “The best part is building the rocket and watching it go up,” she said. “That’s really cool.”
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Bianca Weiser, 12, carefully paints the tail fin of her craft. “The best part is building the rocket and watching it go up,” she said. “That’s really cool.”
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Jake Green prepares his model rocket for liftoff. The Evergreen camp introduced kids to concepts in engineering, physics and mathematics, as well as reinforcing the importance of teamwork and safety.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Jake Green prepares his model rocket for liftoff. The Evergreen camp introduced kids to concepts in engineering, physics and mathematics, as well as reinforcing the importance of teamwork and safety.
By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Rocket kids

Actually, as Weiser would point out, the surface temperature on Venus averages a toasty 864 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s more than twice the oven setting for a meatloaf.

It may not take a rocket scientist to realize Venus is no place to build a ski lodge, but Weiser knows these sorts of things precisely because she is a rocket scientist — a budding one anyway. She spent part of her spring break at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, learning about model rockets and then setting them off.

Her teacher at the museum, Tim Morris, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Weiser, now 12, does eventually head for the stars.

“Every astronaut, every NASA scientist, started with model rockets,” Morris said. “One of these kids could be like the rocket scientists who helped get us to the moon.”

Morris was particularly impressed with Weiser.

“She’s really sharp,” he said. “Girls like her should be encouraged in math and science.”

The National Girls Collaborative Project, which encourages girls in the sciences, reports that only 13 percent of engineers and 25 percent of mathematicians and computer scientists are women.

The numbers for girls are improving, Morris said, but not enough.

“In middle school, we start losing girls,” he said. “Math and science begin to become boys’ clubs, and that’s not good.

“In the classes I teach here at the museum, about two-thirds of the students are girls. That may not sound great, but it’s really huge compared to what it used to be.”

Weiser, who attends Duniway Middle School, said she just wanted to explore the world of rockets.

“I wanted to get into it,” she said. “I’ve never built a rocket before.

“The best part is building the rocket and watching it go up. That’s really cool.”

Weiser led Team Atlantis. Its rocket, Viperfish, shot up 600 to 800 feet into the air behind the museum on March 25.

The rocket was named for the predatory fish in the genus Chauliodus, which is characterized by long, needle-like teeth and hinged lower jaws. A typical viperfish grows to 12 to 24 inches, making it similar in size to a model rocket.

This is the sort of nerdy detail that emerges at rocket camp.

With only four students, last week’s camp was rather small.

“The spring class is usually pretty light,” Morris said. “I get 20 or more kids during the summer.”

But while small in number, the space cadets loomed large in dedication.

Austin Lujan made the trek every day from Tigard to McMinnville with his mother.

“Austin loves this sort of thing,” Christine Lujan said. “We were interested in the museum because we wanted to get the kids out and about, and we decided to check into the classes.

She said, “This is great. While Austin is in class, I walk around and check out the other buildings.

“There really is a lot to see here. It’s like OMSI.”

Visiting the museum has been as much an education for her as it has been for her son, she said.

“It’s nice to know there are veterans working here,” she said. “I love to hear their stories.”

While Lujan talked to veterans, her son learned about such things as center of pressure.

That’s the point where the total sum of a pressure field acts on a body, causing a force to act through that point. The total force vector acting at the center of pressure is the value of the integrated vectorial pressure field.

Got all that?

If not, don’t worry. It’s rocket science, after all.

“These kids are really learning about calculus,” Morris said. They are also getting a smattering of engineering, he said.

When he gave them parts to use in building their rockets, some of the kids started putting things together immediately. That provided Morris with a teachable moment.

“Whoa, there,” he told them. “If you’re building a bridge, you just don’t show up with your materials and start building.

“You need to create a stress model so you know your bridge can take the pressure expected of it. You have to go in with a plan.”

The kids also learn about teamwork. “There is no ‘i’ in team, just a bunch of other letters,” he told them.

Morris has been working in museums for 15 years, the past five at Evergreen.

With his “Doctor Who” lanyard and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” cap, Morris is clearly in his element. “I’ve been into model rockets since I was their age,” he said.

In addition to teaching at the museum, Morris is involved with the Experimental Aircraft Association, whose members actually build rockets that go much farther than 600 to 800 feet. “Working here, I not only get to work with rockets, I get to put rockets into space.”

Despite his science fiction regalia, Morris said he keeps the class strictly grounded in real-world physics.

“We do a little of the science of science fiction,” he said. “It is a beginning for a lot of people.” But that’s it.

Safety is also a primary concern when working with children and rockets. “We’re all having fun until someone says, ‘Oh! My eye!’” Morris said.

He was joking. Morris said he feels a keen sense of responsibility when it comes to Capt. Bianca Weiser and the other astronauts of tomorrow.

“These are their first tentative steps toward space,” he said.

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