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Launching new experiences

Posted: Friday, Oct 25th, 2013

Devin Arellano launches a rocking during a Model Rocketry class at the Alamosa Family Rec Center. Photo by Keith R. Cerny

ALAMOSA — Model Rocketry classes, offered in the spring and fall through the Alamosa Family Rec Center, are about giving the kids something cool, different, and interesting to work on.

There is enough effort and commitment invested that participants gain personal satisfaction from their accomplishments. Self esteem isn’t given. It’s earned.

The classes offered are at two levels: beginner and experienced. Beginner classes are best suited for kids ages 8 and up, although younger ones have attended with their parents. Classes are limited to 10 spots per level. The beginner classes cover basic skills like how rockets work and safety. Experienced classes go into more in-depth information like altitude tracking and calculation and space exploration. It’s applied physics, history, geometry, and craftsmanship all rolled into one.

Launch Day is similar to going to a kid’s soccer game. Camp chairs, blankets, and cameras are in vast supply. Launch days are the most rewarding. After all of the sanding, gluing, cutting, painting, and work involved in building the model, watching your rocket take off is truly satisfying.

“For me, the fun lies in watching the kids while they watch the rockets,” said instructor Matt Abbey.

“It’s impressive to see the models launch. Some reach altitudes of 2100’. Watching the parents react to the launch is fun too.”

This isn’t some video game. There is work involved, effort is expended, learning occurs, and the feeling of accomplishment is plainly visible on their faces. This is a “get off of the couch and go build something useful” activity. 

This is also an affordable hobby. Models start at about $9 each. Engines start at about $3 each. Launchers run about $25. There are starter kits in the $30 price range, which include a rocket in the kit. Rocketry Supplies, models, launchers, and a large selection of engines are available inside the Green Spot at 711 State Ave., Alamosa. Paints, glues, and tools are available there as well. 

The class at the AFRC tends to be less expensive than the sum of the parts. The class is revenue-neutral to the City, enjoys wholesale buying privileges, owns three nice launchers stored at the AFRC, and periodically receives random donations of engines, supplies, and whatnot.

“We keep the class cost down and watch the pennies so that we can purchase more interesting models for the attendees,” Abbey explained.

The rockets and supplies are Colorado-Made. The class primarily uses Estes Rockets products, which are manufactured in Penrose. Vern Estes was the preeminent pioneer in model rocket design, and is best known for developing mass-production of safe, economical solid propellant engines for model rockets in the late 1960’s. See http://www.estesrockets.com/

Abbey said the next classes will be in the spring at the rec center. Folks who want to sign up can do so through the AFRC when the spring catalog comes out, or they can email Abbey at bigvalleyhobbies@gmail.com and he will send out an announcement when the spring class schedule if finalized.

Classes can also be custom scheduled for private groups as well such as Scouts, 4-H, church groups, etc. Just email Abbey.

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