Gateway: Living

Vaughn Elementary students have a blast learning about rockets

From left, Dustin Wood and Ron Perez monitor Annelicia Timmer, Mackenzie Schuller and Sophia Storozyk as each individually launch their rockets with the new launching mechanism.
From left, Dustin Wood and Ron Perez monitor Annelicia Timmer, Mackenzie Schuller and Sophia Storozyk as each individually launch their rockets with the new launching mechanism. Courtesy

Teachers Doug Smith and Matthew Mills made Vaughn Elementary’s annual fifth-graders’ rocket shoot happen June 10. Volunteers Dustin Wood and Ron Perez helped set up. Mills took photos at 15 frames a second with the GoPro camera a Peninsula Schools Education Foundation grant made possible.

“That’s why we got so many great pictures,” Smith said.

The classes launched 59 rockets, culminating a project where students learned about and built Alpha rockets.

“Volunteer Laird Young’s new rocket launcher worked perfectly,” he said. “All students got to push their own button to launch their rockets, and many were able to catch them.”

“The best part about rockets is pushing the button because you know when it’s going to go in the air,” said student Jeremiah Schmitt.

“The rockets were such fun!” said Annelicia Timmer. “I learned a lot about how to build and fly them. We got to pick colors for our rockets and could even paint it umbra.”

Mia Davis liked “building rockets, like sanding the fins or putting the parachute in and the smoke you see when it takes off.”

Madison Miller liked seeing the rockets “blast off and watching them fly.”

Jessica Neumann got to see the quick glimpse of fire when the rocket launched. “We aren’t allowed to have fire at school so when rockets launched it felt like it was NASA.”

To Mackenzie Schuller, “the absolute thing was watching the line of smoke to see where it went. Even though mine got stuck in a tree, it was still fun.”

Sophia Storozyk learned a lot about rocket history, including “how they became popular and how to build them. It was fun to see them fly.”

“The best part was when we got to hold the button to launch and the whole school counting down in unison,” said Logan Denney. “You’re waiting for them to hit zero to watch your rocket fly up and run after it and catch it in the air.”

“I learned a lot about how they fly,” said Deven Loska. “I liked gluing the metal, plastic and wood together to make it actually look like a rocket.”

“The reason rockets fly is because of Sir Isaac Newton’s third law about equal and opposite reactions, which works when something pushes forward, something has to move backwards,” said Loska. “Gas in the rocket goes down, the rocket goes up.”

“The wait was long but worth it to press the red button and watch rockets soar into the sky,” Chris Frazier said. “Although I didn’t catch it, it was fun running after it.”

“You want to use a launch lug to position where the rockets are going to go and you need a firework-looking engine to fly,” said Alec Moore. “You also need tissue paper so the parachute doesn’t melt. Rockets go like 300 mph when you push the button.”

Said Reaghan Perez, “The whole school came. About 300 people counted down from five, and it was super cool! Everyone cheered when someone caught a rocket. Building them, we had to secure the parachute and tie the shock cord and sand and glue the fins. It was worth it when we launched. Except for a few that landed in trees, no one lost a rocket.”

Lilly Moore liked how “we got to choose which color to paint the rockets. I painted mine Husky Pride purple.”

“We learned how to launch them, learned about putting tissue in them so the parachute wouldn’t melt and the rocket wouldn’t fall and hit the ground,” said Troy Lange.

Colton Robbins enjoyed catching rockets. Torvin Dorny liked “almost catching it; I was close but wiped out on the hill next to it. The smoke smells like rotten, moldy eggs.”

Abigail Oliver enjoyed “chasing rockets and trying to find out which was mine. Feeling the adrenaline pumping made me enjoy launching.”

Makena Jones learned how every piece matters or it will not launch perfectly.

“I think everyone should launch a rocket!” she said.

Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at