SUNDAY'S PICNIC at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory was a blast. More than 150 people attended the model rocket demonstration and open launch. Hot dogs and hamburgers, chips and sodas were distributed free.
The launch was supervised by members of the National Association of Rocketry Headquarters Astro-Modeling Section, who checked the rockets for safety and sent them into the air. Founded in 1965, the 80-member group is one of the oldest model rocket clubs in the United States.
The picnic was sponsored by the Baltimore Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a society for aerospace professionals. The group meets at the Applied Physics Laboratory.
Tom Milnes, the institute's "precollege outreach chairman," invited the rocket club to the picnic as part of a campaign to interest children in aerospace careers.
"There is no better way to do this than to engage the imagination of our youth and their parents," Milnes said. "Hopefully, we light this spark each year with our annual picnic, and follow it up by sponsoring an elementary school paper airplane and a high school electric cargo airplane challenge."
Milnes is a senior mathematician in the laboratory's Strategic Systems Department. He came to the picnic with his family, bringing rockets they built in their Eldersburg home.
"It's very exciting," said Tommy Milnes, 7. "I love when it blasts to the sky and all the way down."
The two-hour launch was directed by Don Brown, the rocket club president. He has been involved with the club, which is based in College Park, since 1996.
"A lot of people flew rockets when they were kids, but I didn't," Brown said. "My son got me involved around eight years ago now, when he said he wanted to get a rocket for his birthday. The bug bit me real bad."
More than 60 rockets were launched, including some demonstration models provided by the rocket club and rockets brought to the launch by the children and adults who built them.
"The big thing is safety. We make sure everyone adheres to the safety rules of the NAR," Brown said, referring to the National Association of Rocketry.
The rockets ranged in size from 6 inches to 4 feet, and reached altitudes of 1,200 feet. They were fueled by single-use motors and equipped with recovery devices such as parachutes and streamers.
Most of the rockets landed inside the launch area, but gusty winds carried many into the surrounding woods, causing owners to scurry in pursuit.
"Having fun, that's the key," Brown noted. "It's a combination of personal achievement and satisfaction when a young person builds their own rocket and has a successful launch."
Information about model rocketry: www.narhams.org.
Elementary and high school students are invited to participate in the two aerospace challenges issued by Tom Milnes' group. Milnes is organizing the event.
Children in grades one through five can compete in the Paper Airplane Challenge, in which four-member teams will design, construct and fly paper airplanes. The planes must be hand-launched with a large paper clip as passenger.
High school students can enter the Electric-Powered Cargo Airplane Challenge. Teams of four will produce and fly an electrically powered model aircraft. Each plane must complete at least one flight without cargo, and one with as much cargo as possible.
Both challenges are scheduled for early next year at Baltimore Museum of Industry.
Information: Tom Milnes, 443-778-4982, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Cash for trash'
A fund-raising drive under way at Lime Kiln Middle School is as good for the environment as it is for the students. Music teacher Nellie Hill will collect used ink-jet printer cartridges in a "cash for trash" program that raised about $400 last year.
Hill sends the used cartridges to a recycling center in Las Vegas that refills and resells them at a discount. Lime Kiln receives $1.50 for each cartridge. The music department plans to use this year's proceeds to purchase new drums.
"I would love to get to the point where I could earn $1,000 this year," Hill said.
She hopes that businesses and residents will donate their used cartridges. "If a business will set up a box to collect them, I'll even go and pick them up," she said.
The new drums will be used by Lime Kiln students and by participants in a community drum circle held from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the school. "Anyone can come," Hill said. "Children are welcome as long as they are going to participate."
You don't need to be a musician or have a sense of rhythm to enjoy the program, she added. "There's something in a drum for everybody."
For information about the drum circle or the fund-raiser: Nellie Hill, 410-880-5988, or send e-mail to email@example.com. k12.md.us.