Young scientists have a blast learning about rockets

A group of young NASA space campers learned about forces of flight and challenges of space travel at the South Park Recreation Center. Eric Wheatman, 11, runs back holding a rocket stage that parachuted back to earth.

A handful of Lawrence kids turned South Park into Cape Canaveral on Thursday when they set off their own mini-rockets.

The five kids are part of Kansas City’s Mad Science weeklong day camp called NASA: Journey into Outer Space.

“It’s basically just a camp for elementary school kids where they can explore different things about NASA and outer space,” said Jackie Johnson, self-proclaimed “Mad Scientist” and camp leader.

“I thought it was more fun than I thought it was going to be, and we got to shoot off rockets, and we get to build a lot of stuff,” said 11-year-old camper Eric Wheatman.

The first rocket was almost a dud and did not go off as planned after the kids enthusiastically counted down. But it did end up making its skyward journey.

“It was pretty amazing. It was really fast,” said camper Joshua Milota.

Johnson said there are sports camps, so why not science camps?

“Thanks to programs like this, kids can really get interested, and we have scientists when they grow up,” Johnson said.

The best part of Thursday’s launch might be that it was just a preview. The kids take home their own rockets today.

“They can kind of be NASA explorers in their own backyard,” Johnson said.