Eleven-year-old Walt Hellyer looks to the heavens after launching his model rocket from the Meadows Parking Lot during the Rocketry Camp, which was put on by the Steamboat Springs Arts Council’s Young at Art summer program.
Steamboat Springs The night before launch day, 11-year-old Walt Hellyer pulled out his light blue polo shirt emblazoned with the NASA logo.
Early Friday morning, his eyes followed the arc of each rocket set off in the Meadows Parking Lot with intent awe.
After a week at the Rocketry Camp, which was put on by the Steamboat Springs Arts Council’s Young at Art summer program, Walt was one of 17 budding new rocket scientists in the Yampa Valley.
“I learned that it’s all a bunch of variables,” Walt said about his experience at Rocketry Camp. “No rockets will ever be the same.”
The rocket-building camp is new this year in the Steamboat Springs Arts Council’s summer program. Supplemented by funds from the Arts Council’s various fundraisers, the Rocketry Camp runs alongside drama, visual art and dance classes.
Chris Kramer, a third-grade teacher at Soda Creek Elementary school with a passion for model rockets, lead the 7- to 12-year-old campers in the meticulous process of building a rocket.
“I just love it, and the kids love it, too,” he said.
The week’s work all paid off on the crisp, clear morning of launch day, evident by the hoots and hollers of the students and their families as each rocket shot into the air with a resounding whoosh.
“It went way higher than I thought,” said 9-year-old Thomas Faunce, handling the orange and white parachute of his creation after it had fallen lazily from the sky.
His mother, Stephanie Faunce, entered Thomas and his younger brother Christopher in the program.
“I think the kids are so inundated with sports here — and that’s one of the things I love about this town — but it’s nice to give them an infusion of science,” she said. “I think it was fun for them to use another part of their brain.
“Who doesn’t like to see something fly up into the sky that you made yourself?”
Launch day almost didn’t happen. Although the Arts Council worked with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to secure use of the lot, the high fire danger and subsequent restrictions normally would have prevented the group from igniting the black powder-powered rockets.
However, Susan Whittlesey, Arts Council program director, worked with Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Mel Stewart to follow the proper channels for an exemption to the restrictions.
Steamboat Fire Rescue was on hand for the launches, and although they traveled hundreds of feet into the air, none of the rockets left the parking lot air when they were launched.
Rocketry will continue into a second session in August, which already is full at 15 students.
Whittlesey called the first rocketry camp a success.
“It was a lot of steps,” she said about the rocket-building process. “But I think they’ll feel like it was worth the challenge.”