AFJROTC Model Rocketry Club reaches new heights

By Amanda Crowe acrowe@civitasmedia.com

May 3, 2014

FAIRBORN — The JROTC program at Fairborn High School is helping to launch students’ interests in aerospace science with their Model Rocketry Club.

Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) cadets from Fairborn High School are best known for their involvement in many community events, but few know what they really do. The AFJROTC objective is to educate and train high school cadets in citizenship, promote community service, instill responsibility, character, and self-discipline, and provide instruction in air and space fundamentals.

The program curriculum emphasizes the Air Force heritage and traditions, the development of flight, applied flight sciences, military aerospace policies, and space exploration.

“Our overall goal is to build better citizens for our country,” said SMSgt David L. Mackey, USAF (Ret), Aerospace Science Instructor at FHS. “Through the JROTC we teach them how airplanes work and about air power history from people jumping out of trees to drone technology and everything in between.”

And a special part of that objective is teaching leadership skills through programs like the Model Rocketry Club.

“Rocketry has always been a part of the program but we’ve been able to take it to new heights,” Mackey said.

This year, the group was fortunate to team up with MSgt Jeremy Turner, better known as “Rocket Man” to the cadets, from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. His own experience in the JROTC in his small hometown in Pennsylvania led him to a desire to volunteer.

“It really opened the door for me to join the Air Force with a certain kind of rank and I really wanted to give back,” Turner said. “This was a way I could use my knowledge the Air Force has taught me and the resources I have to help them out.”

The Model Rocketry Club involves designing, building, and flying of small rockets. It provides an introduction to concepts of aerospace engineering and design and the basic concepts of flight and space.

Being in a flying position with the Air Force, Turner was able to use his experience and background in aviation to help the cadets with concepts like aerodynamics and propulsion. He also built the launch pad for the rockets and his brother’s company, Rocketry Warehouse in Hollsopple, Pa., donated the materials for this year’s program.

“MSgt Turner was instrumental in this initiative even happening,” said Mackey. “This is what he does, and we just don’t have that kind of skill. No other ROTC is doing what we were able to do. This really helps the kids stay excited and gets them thinking ‘I like that’ and maybe they’ll want to do something in the aerospace industry. We never thought we’d be so fortunate.”

This year’s participating cadets include Model Rocket Commander Joe Boggs, Amy Anderson, Ryan Anderson, Austin Crabtree, Nathan Haywood, Hayden Perkins, Conner Patterson, Kirstin Sigalos and Keith Young.

Led by MSgt Turner, the cadets began in the fall with a 6-week introductory course covering model rocketry basics and responsibilities followed by an Alpha Rocket launch. These can be found at most hobby shops. Beginning in January, nine cadets met over an 8-week period digging deeper into model rocket science and were required to make an oral presentation on a selected scientist and their contribution to rocket science and propulsion.

“When I was a kid, we built models and rockets, but kids today play video games, so they didn’t see what was coming down the road,” Turner said. “When we got to the big rockets, they realized why attention to detail and understanding what that rocket is going to do is so important, especially for safety. They did a great job.”

Upon completing the academic course, cadets were required to complete an exam covering the topics of model rocketry techniques, procedures, operations, and safety precautions. Cadets worked in 3-person teams in building the advanced rockets.

The students launched four separate rockets, two times each, and each cadet was responsible for holding various leadership responsibilities prior to and during the launch. Some positions included Launch Control Officer, Range Officer, Safety Officer, First Aid Officer, Observers/Trackers, Spectator Control, and Public Affairs.

“These flew well over 500 feet in the air. I think the highest we got was about 800 feet,” Mackey said.

Cadet Boggs, a sophomore, was in charge getting the club off the ground this year. Through this leadership position he feels he has learned a lot.

“I’ve always been interested in space and what’s out there since I was a little kid. When I learned there was no one in charge, I asked if I could get it started back up,” he said. “My leadership abilities have grown, I’ve come out of my comfort circle to do things I didn’t think I could do before, like talking to other people and leading. The best part was seeing it all come together, and seeing the kids grow into it.”

Each cadet who successfully completed the advanced model rocketry program requirements is qualified to wear the Air Force Junior ROTC Model Rocketry Badge. This badge will be awarded at this year’s Ohio 031st’s AFJROTC Annual Awards Banquet on May 7 at Fairborn High School.