MIDWEST CITY — Firing off rockets at Kids College requires the whole class to shout the countdown in unison — it is just what one does.
“Five, four, three, two … ONE!” The small, handmade, hand-painted rocket whooshes up from a homemade plastic launchpad, traveling more than a hundred feet in two or three seconds. Everyone squints into the midday sun to see the rocket turn over at the top of its flight curve — the “apogee.”
With a faraway “pop!” the rocket's nose cone parts from the body and an orange streamer emerges.
The rocket flutters back down to the campus ball field. An excited 12-year-old from McLoud, Chase Hutcheson, darts out to reclaim his prize.
“I've never fired off one that you could use again. Usually they have fireworks in them,” Hutcheson exclaims.
The “Aerospace Flight” class is one of the many science-related classes offered during Rose State College's Kids College summer learning camp. The camp's full enrollment is indicative of a strong push by parents, educators and state officials to encourage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning.
One such state official is Grayson Ardies, program manager at the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. With the firing of each rocket, its tail flickering with ambient flame, Ardies is watching a fire light in a child's mind.
“We have to educate the next aviation workforce. We want to get that spark in the back of their brain saying ‘Hey! This is what I want to do,'” Ardies said.