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Day Trips

Student rockets scream across the sky at Willow City

By Gerald E. McLeod, Fri., May 16, 2014

Day Trips
Photos by Gerald E. Mcleod

Rockets flying over Willow City this weekend won't be fired in anger. It's the annual invasion of high school students launching their custom-built missiles high into the blue sky of the Texas Hill Country.

Day Trips

Maybe watching the silver science projects scream toward the clouds isn't on the scale of a NASA launch, but it is pretty exciting. The 8-foot-tall rockets take off from their cow-pasture launching pads, streak across the sky, and then gently parachute back to Earth.

The unexpected can happen and spectators are kept a respectable distance from the rockets, but not too far to enjoy the thrill of flight. Usually the worst that happens is the 30-minute wait between launches is extended to excruciating lengths. Fortunately, there are activities and the announcer fills in the time with information about the rockets and the students who built them.

Day Trips

This year, 30 high schools will launch 80 rockets, 20 more rockets than last year, as part of the SystemsGo Aeroscience classroom program. Statewide, 46 schools participate in the program that teaches hands-on skills. The course began at nearby Fredericksburg High School in 1996.

The student rockets lift 35-pound payloads up to 100,000 feet into the air Thursday through Sunday, May 15-18, from 8:30am to 5:30pm. The event is free and open to the public, but preregistration is recommended. Go to www.systemsgo.org for details. Austin's Akins High School will launch its rocket on Saturday morning.

1,189th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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