Rockets In Georgia!

My name is John Beckman, and I teach computer to K-4 through 6th grade at Augusta Christian Schools in Martinez, Georgia (In case you are a golf fan, our school is located near the site of the 1997 "Masters Golf Tournament"). Of the 350 students that I teach each week in our elementary computer lab, 120 students were 5th and 6th graders. As part of their annual lessons concerning Outer Space, these 120 students received classroom instruction on rockets, principles in rocketry, history of rockets, and space exploration.

This last year, I thought that it would be quite different if I gathered the students into our library and contacted a model rocket club, via the Internet, on my laptop computer for each class. I chose a model rocket club located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada named "TAG", which stands for the Toronto Aerospace Guild! I proceeded to E-mail the President, John Pierre LeBlanc, and asked him several questions concerning club membership, skills needed, how often they launched their rockets, and whether the pictures of their launches were posted to their Web Site.

After many E-mails, Mr. LeBlanc decided that he wanted to mix his vacation with his hobby! So, on Monday, 17 February, 1997, John Pierre arrived in Augusta, Georgia, to give instruction on the building and launching of model rockets to 120 students! He also covered topics such as: safety in rocketry, math principles utilized in model rocketry, the history of rockets, and a "Question & Answer" time about Outer Space! There were six "Phases" involved with our school's Rocket Science Project!

Phase One involved the actual construction of the model rockets in the Augusta Christian Schools gym. We decided to instruct, construct, and launch with the 5th graders on the first day and do the same for the 6th graders on the second day! This procedure was necessary because of the regular school day being in session. Also, the week was actually split up into several sections that covered things such as the first planning meeting with all assistants and parents, meal times (including school lunches and special meals provided for Mr. LeBlanc for each evening by Teachers & Parents), Assembly for all 120 students with Mr. LeBlanc, construction & launch dates for each grade, and a rain-day plan! Also in Phase One, tables were set up with newspaper coverings, bags of glue & other parts needed, instructions of the model rocket to be built, and the model's parts.


Phase Two involved Mr. LeBlanc directing students in assembling the following: the Launch Control Center, the Launch Pads, and the special "wind sampling" model rocket pad!


Phase Three involved placing groups of six students into a special "holding area." This area separated the special groups from the rest of the students so that each group could access the launch area and retrieve their own model rockets. The streamers were checked for proper packing in the nose cone at this time! This provided a safety zone that was needed to prevent serious accidents from happening.

Phase Four involved the students in placing their own model rockets onto the selected launch pads. Students checked the models for loose or missing parts, rocket engines to be "snug and in place," and for proper placement of model rockets onto their guidance rods. This is also where the students connected the "launch electrodes" to the rocket engines, so that they could be ignited at the proper time!


Phase Five involved John Pierre going out to make a "safety check" before the model rockets are to be launched. The students, once they have completed the last phase, must then go back to their Phase Three "station" before launching!


Phase Six concludes all of the student's model rocketry training with the actual launching of each students own rocket individually! This single launching provides that student with a special pride and much excitement (We launched a special model rocket prior to the actual student launching to "check out" the "winds aloft"! This ensures the proper positioning of the launch pads so as to allow each model rocket to return to Earth within the pre-selected landing area. This is also important so that the student can recover and, later, re-launch their own model rocket at a later date!)!!

More than 150 model rockets were launched over a two-day period, and all but one was recovered (The model rocket that we used to take a picture of everyone in our project landed in a very tall Georgia pine tree, and was picked up two months later). The students learned so much by doing this project that they will probably remember it for many years!

John Pierre not only enjoyed the weather down here (compared to Toronto, Canada), but he enjoyed the "Southern Hospitality" given by all of us! John Pierre is a financial programmer, and he takes his model rocket hobby very seriously! The model rocket kits that our school purchased were from Estes Model Rockets in Penrose, Colorado. Our students built the "Wizard" model rocket kit, and it flew between 1,000 and 1,500 feet before coming down. We also opted for the streamer instead of the parachute because of the tricky "winds aloft!"

Next launch:
John Pierre is planning to come down again in March 16-20 1998 for our "Second Annual Model Rocket Launch" at Augusta Christian Schools! He will be accompanied by his colleagues Bob Dorcas, and Anthony DiFlorio. This year, our school will be purchasing the model rockets and rocket engines from Apogee Components, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I have included several E-mail addresses and Web sites so that your schools can talk about a project like ours with experts in the field of model rockets.


John Pierre LeBlanc - past President of the Toronto Aerospace Guild (TAG) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (

Austin Taylor, president of Canadian Rocket Society (formerly known as the Toronto Aerospace Guild) and his E-mail address is Their Web address is

Tim Van Milligan - CEO of Apogee Components ( or Telephone number: 719-548-5075 Web address is

Quest Aerospace--A division of Toy Biz, Inc.
Contact: Chad Long
(800) 858-7302 x110

Augusta Christian Schools (
313 Baston Road
Martinez, GA 30907
(706) 863-2905
John T. Beckman,



© 1998 Live from Earth and Mars, John Beckman, and Rich Edgerton