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Last updated: April 19, 2008
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Cub Scout Pack 348, Eden Prairie High School (9/11/2010)

I arrived at the high school around 9 am and met up with Jim Horn, Pack 348 scoutmaster. He brought bits and pieces of some launch equipment left to his pack, primarily two long wooden sawhorse style launch platforms with holes drilled for about 8 rods each. The horses were pre-wired and it appeared to mate up with an absent multi-pad controller that Jim left behind (he said he could not get it to work). Luckily I had s half dozen single Estes Launch pads, rods, and electron beam launchers. Lyle showed up with even more ground support equipment so we were good to go. We set up my 3 pad sawhorse pad and at least 8 single Estes stock pads just to the north. We had plenty of tables and Jim had printed signs for each - "Motor Prep", "Rocket Building", "Launch Control" [LCO] to name a few. Jim also created a flight line using sawhorses and yellow CAUTION tape that stretched the distance of our launch pads. We were all ready by 10:30 am when the scouts started to filter in.

I was actually surprised to see how many kids showed up with their rockets READY to fly. There were only two or three builders in the group. Some scouts even brought other rockets from their fleet to fly - the largest of which was a Blue Ninja.

After a safety briefing and series of announcements by Jim (this was also a recruiting mission for the pack), the range was open. Lyle, Susan, and I split up range duties while Jim managed the overall flow of scouts to and from the various stations and flight line. I took the 3 pad controller and assisted in prepping rockets for the younger fliers. Lyle and Susan took the 8 individual stations which turned out to be the most popular pads by far, especially for the older scouts. Jim did MOST of the rocket prep at the "Motor Prep" table, which remained the most crowded spot at the field the entire time. The kids laughed every time Jim referred to the cellulose wadding I brought as "dog barf". I didn't want to have the fields littered with standard Estes wadding so I grabbed a couple of chunks and threw them in a bucket before heading out. Now I only have an 18 year supply of wadding instead of 20. Calling the cellulose "dog barf" made the rocket prep much more fun for the scouts. "Why do you call it dog barf?" was a common question from scouts that, presumably, never had a dog as as pet.

The biggest "challenge" was managing the all too often "no fire" motor and resulting disappointed scout due to a faulty igniter. I saw many igniters installed with the leads shorted, the bridge wire broken, or not inserted deep enough. Jim had purchased a boat load of motors, including B's and C's. The scouts started showing up at the flight line with the incorrect plug, which quickly fell out when putting the rocket on the launch rod. Keeping a roll of tape in my pocket was a very wise practice.

Most scouts launched their rocket(s) at least twice, with some scouts launching 6 or more flights - a tribute to their fine craftsmanship. One rocket had all three fins on one side of the airframe - sort of like a 4FNC that was missing a fin. Amazingly this rocket flew quite well and no less than 4 times.

Most scouts used the A8-3's that Jim brought but an occasional B6-4 was flown. You knew which ones had the B motors because they went WAY high and elicited a big "WOW" from the crowd. Unfortunately those "WOW" rockets were also the ones that drifted to the east, across the street, and into the yards and trees. Luckily, I think we lost only 2 rockets to the strong winds from the West - 348 must be a lucky number. There were a couple of separations, a couple of lawn darts and a core sample. I didn't keep count but I would bet we launched over 80 times from about 35 scouts.

The launch wound down around noon and we cleaned up and left the field in pristine condition. Oh, I suppose you could find a pink or yellow plug or two if you REALLY scoured the grass. :)

Susan and I both had a blast and would offer up the following "learning's":

1. Improper igniter installation was all too common. It would have been ideal if all the igniters and plugs were installed in the motors by an experienced rocketeer at the field or installed "the night before." I started to check each one before placing the rocket on the rod - keeping a supply of igniters and tape in my pocket.

2. Have a large prep area that is well manned to (especially) assist the young fliers. Jim and his fellow scout leader Bob were VERY busy and probably could have used another set of hands to prep motors and keep the launch supplies in order.

3. Chairs? Don't bother, you won't be sitting down once the range opens.

4. Remember it is not about rockets, it is about the experience of a child launching their first rocket. Placing in harms way something they (may have) built themselves, personalized with their name and in many cases lot of bling.

5. Make sure you remember to allow parents to get that all important photo or video of their child next to the launch pad. And DO NOT press the launch button when Mom or Dad says "cheese." :)

6. Having launches staged in "batches" seemed to work better than random flights taking off up and down the flight line.

7. The MOST fun any scout had was pressing the launch button themselves. Having individual pads with an electron beam launcher at each worked well.

Susan and I had a blast, as I presume Lyle did as well. We got many "thanks" from the appreciative parents and from the Pack leaders. This was my first outreach, I hope to find time to do many more in the future.

[Dwayne Shmel]

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