Friday, February 24, 2012

Amateur Rocket Scientist

Lately I have been channeling my inner scientist.

Somehow I thought signing up for the North Carolina Science Olympiad was a good idea. I thought, "Hey, we'll launch rockets, we'll learn new things, it will be awesome." And it is. I'm just learning that I'm really not a very good rocket scientist.

But apparently that doesn't seem to matter. For the last six weeks we have been blowing up 2 liter bottles in our back yard by filling them with water and pumping them up with air by way of a bicycle tire pump until they launch. Genius, right? I'm even able to say things like "Hey kids, we just used Newton's Third Law of Motion!" (that's for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction for those who need a reminder.)

Like moths to a flame, every kid, grown up and neighborhood dog is drawn to our rocketry afternoons. Pretty soon everyone wants to take a turn at building their own rocket, pumping it up and vying for the most coveted job, pulling the launcher string.

Are we learning anything other than how much PSI it takes to blow a 2 liter bottle sky high? Not sure. Are we furthering the love of science? Probably. But the coolest lesson we have learned is to see how much we can fail miserably at something and have a total blast.

That part makes it worth it. Science for me as a kid was the most boring thing imaginable. I can remember my 8th grade teacher drawing circle after circle on the chalkboard as he talked about molecules. Or even better was reading mountains of textbooks, while cramming hundreds of science terms in my head. I even remember studying Newton's Laws.

The truth is science is super cool if it's done in a memorable way. My guess is that my son will definitely remember Newton's Third Law forever -- with some great stories of blowing things up in his back yard. For all this, my attempts at amateur rocket scientist are time well spent. If nothing more than to revel in the jubilation of a bunch of kids celebrating the awesome beauty of a 2 liter reaching the treetops.

PS. If you want to learn more about NC Science Olympiad, volunteering or just coming out to watch the events, visit