The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








The sky’s the limit for fun with the Kearsarge Area Rocket Society at Warner Farm Field. Courtesy photo.

 Kearsarge Area Rocket Society Launch

Where: Warner Farm Field, Warner
When: Saturday, Aug. 16, 1 to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free
Call: 938-5129

Rocket kids
Kearsarge Area Rocket Society launches fun family activity


There’s smoke. There’s fire. There are shiny objects shooting up into the sky. What more could a kid ask for?
Mike Bellino said those three characteristics alone have inspired a number of kids to start building their own model rockets. Bellino said he created the Kearsarge Area Rocket Society to provide an outlet for kids and adults to test out the rockets they build. Every month, dozens of people gather at Warner Farm Field off Schoodac Road in Warner to watch the launches. The next launch is Saturday, Aug. 16, from 1 to 3 p.m.
“A lot of parents want to find things kids are interested in,” said Bellino. “When kids hear about it, they’re hooked. They literally squeal with delight when the rocket goes into the sky, and when the parachute comes out. They try to catch it as it comes down.”
Every month, Bellino said, there’s something new. He’s launched rockets made out of coffee cups, some that utilize spinning propellers on their descent back to Earth, and rockets shaped like outhouses and vegetables.
“Rocketry can tap into some really creative minds out there,” he said.
Bellino got into model rockets the way most children do: through the influence of an older relative.
“My grandfather bought me my first kit, which was an X15 [model rocket],” he said.
When Bellino moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts in 2003, word got out that he worked with rockets. Kids often asked him if there were any model rocket clubs in the area. Rather than having to keep delivering bad news to aspiring rocket builders, Bellino decided to start his own club in 2005.
The Kearsarge Area Rocket Society, or KARS for short, does not have memberships. Bellino said about two dozen people typically show up to each launch, including moms, dads and kids. Bellino said the older kids tend to bring rockets they created as a school project or ones they have been working on for a while, but the most popular rockets he has seen at the launches still tend to be the rockets that are already built and ready to go.
“The ‘ready-to-fly’ rockets, you simply open the package and maybe you have to put stickers and then it’s ready to fly,” he said. “They’re good entry-level rockets. They usually take maybe a half hour to put them together.”
According to Bellino, the launches typically host two different groups: the “groups who know what they’re doing” and the spectators. The former group typically takes the initiative to inspect the rockets, make sure the motors are in correctly, secure and stabilize the launch pads (usually six at a time), and make sure the rockets are safe and stable enough for the launching. The latter are usually families who are attending for the first time.
“Once [the veterans] help them through the first hurdle, the families are like, ‘I can’t wait to come back next month!’” said Bellino.
Bellino has also taken several steps to help students and families better understand the science behind the launches, making them as informative as they are fun. The group sometimes uses altimeters that can measure how high the rocket has traveled based on the spectator’s distance from the launch pad.
KARS has teamed up with the National Association of Rocketry, which helps insure members at launch sites and produces a bi-monthly magazine called Sport Rocketry. 
The organization recently sponsored the first rocket-flying contest for KARS with a prize of a one-year youth membership. The contest involved participants writing a page-long submission about what rocketry meant to them, presenting a completely built rocket to KARS members, and, for special bonus points, launching the rocket safely.
The winner, announced on Friday, Aug.1, was 11-year-old Chris Van Natta from Merrimack. 
“I’ve been flying rockets for about a year or two,” he said. “My grandpa showed me a model rocket he had and said we should build one together. I like watching rockets go up in the air and I figured it’d be a good place to go fly rockets.”
Van Natta said he and his grandfather created their rocket out of cardboard, hot glue and plastic. He guessed that his rocket got up to 120 feet in the air, which is typical for the A8-3 engine he used.
“It was my first rocket I ever built, and it was a good activity to do with my grandpa,” he said. “Plus it’s cool. I like the charge of the engine and how it flies in the air. It’s cool to watch.”
“It’s a personal challenge, not you against someone else,” Bellino said. “It’s really you against nature because once you press that button, everything is out of your control and there’s an element of excitement in that. Rocketry also involves the hands, the mind and the body. All your senses are engaged, which makes [rocketry] a fun thing to participate in.” 

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