Welcome to Badass Science
Over a decade ago I joined a rocketry club in my community and started building and launching model rockets with my son Arthur. Interestingly, my wife Gloria jumped in and started building and launching her own. When we got started it was mostly about urging Arthur toward a science and engineering vocation. He is 19 now, and this seems to have worked.
I am Thomas Kindig and I live in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We enjoy lots of wide open space out here in the desert. When I first started out building little kit rockets, my position was that I could not see myself joining a national club. Today I am the president of my local club and a member of both the NAR and TRA. I am certified Level 2, and Gloria is certified Level 1. We caught a bug.
The guys we hang out with are great. Their interests range from detailed scale model building of historical (and new) rockets and missiles, to contest rocketry, to high power rocketry (HPR). There is some overlap between these interests but the three categories are still pretty distinct. But they are not exclusive. My interest is HPR, but I am welcome at competition meets to get in line and launch my rockets even though I am not registered for competition. When we organize HPR launches, the model and competition guys often show up to fly even when they are not launching high power rockets.
FLARE (The Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts,) has been around for a lot longer than I have and, yes the name and the logo are exceptionally good. We maintain around 15 active members and despite our small size we are a bit of a powerhouse in the rocketry community. Our members publish articles in Sport Rocketry magazine on a regular basis. In 2010 we sponsored the NAR National Sport launch, in conjunction with our sister club SMRA in Alamogordo. We had attendees from as far away as Ohio and Virginia.
We sponsor quarterly regional contest launches which draw fellow rocketeers and their families from New Mexico,Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. In 2011 we hosted a NASA Advanced Rocketry Workshop and Launch, working with NASA Marshal Space Flight and the Alabama Space Grant Consortium. At that launch we certified over 30 participants NAR Level 1. Since 2008 we have conducted a non-stop series of scale model launch events commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo missions to the moon. We have brushed elbows with NASA astronauts and flight controllers, including Gene Kranz, Milt Windler, Charlie Duke, and Dr. Harrison Schmitt.
We are one of only two clubs in the United States to hold a standing FAA waiver to launch up to 145,000ft MSL. That’s over 42 miles. Some of our members, including Gloria and I, are regular participants and mentors in STEM outreach projects, working with students from middle school to university. We do classroom rocket building workshops all year ‘round. We support the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC), and the NASA Student Launch Initiative (Go Atomic Aggies!)
So, why Badass-Science? It’s about that bug that Gloria and I caught. The national clubs are trying to find ways to attract new people to rocketry. Rocketry and model railroading are suffering from the widespread availability of internet gaming and entertainment. Young people (and older people for that matter) can tune in to a wide variety of entertainment and hobby activities from the comfort of their own home. It has been suggested that it is healthy to get outdoors now and then, and there is great value in building something with your own hands. Gloria and I use a computer modeling software package to design and build our own rockets. The program RockSim™, by Apogee Rocketry, is very realistic and can be quite accurate, especially if you take your actual flight data back to the model to fine-tune it.
Designing a rocket and simulating the flight is fun, but this does not beat the thrill of actually flying something that you designed and built. Even flying an off-the-shelf model is a real kick. If you do this often enough, and with a variety of rockets, you catch a science bug. There is an absolute art to understanding flight dynamics and trying to find a “sweet spot” for the vehicle you are crafting. If you catch that bug, it can inform any of those three areas: Scale Modeling, Competition Rocketry, and High Power Rocketry. If you have the time, it can inform all three.
So how do we catch a new generation of rocketeers? I am hoping to do this through social media. The point of Badass-Science is not to encourage you to read about rocketry, it is to get you out in the field to fly rockets. Badass is a mild use of vulgarity, which I hope will attract people in the mid-teen to 45 year old demographic. I think that hobby rocketry does involve science and scientific reasoning, and I can not think of any area of practical science that is more badass than launching rockets.
You really need to get out and fly! It’s badass!