When I was a kid, my uncles would, on occasion, take me to go launch some rockets. Either that or they would drop me on my head (according to my mom, being dropped on my head happened a lot more often than I can remember thanks to the concussions). The farm field we would often go to to launch the rockets in is now the Laurelwood neighborhood in Waterloo. With a little researching, I found a new location: Snyder’s flats in Bloomingdale. It is only a 15-minute drive from my side (the far side) of Waterloo, so the trek out there wasn’t too bad. Just a little further down the road from the A on the Google map image, below. Here is a direct link to the Google map location if you want to visit the area yourself. Synder’s flats is overall, a very interesting place. I noticed a lot of off-leash dog walkers there; it seems to be pretty popular place for owners of canines.
Just go past the church, and park in the first open parking area on your left, across the road from the sand hill (pictured below). We launched in the large, flat area beside the sand hill, in the shade of a large oak tree, the only tree around. Fortunately the wind was on our side that day, blowing away from the road, in the general direction of the shadow of the tree. No sunburns, and we were comfortable in the heat.
My kids thought they should rock out with their rockets. The photo below doesn’t quite capture how hilarious and unintentionally suggestive my daughter was with her rocket. Rocketry is a relatively cheap activity for kids. Small, click-together rockets perfect for young kids sell for $10-20.
Launching rockets with your kids is a fairly peaceful activity. Rocket launches aren’t very quick to set up, but the build-up is worth it and once the kids see the first one go, they are more than patient for the others to be launched. You’ll need a launcher of some sort, which can sell for $20 for the one I have (although I found mine at a thrift store and paid a lot less) or you can improvise and stick a firm, straight wire, 2′ in length, into the ground (a well-straightened coat hanger will do). An igniter can sell for $20 as well, or you can improvise, I just used a 6V battery holder (4 AA batteries) soldered to 20′ of wire, cost about $2 in materials. I clicked in the fourth battery when I wanted to launch the rocket.
Photographing the falling rocket is the easiest way to lose track of it. Every time I was trying to take a photo of a falling rocket, as soon as I pulled the lens away from my eye I had no idea where in the sky the rocket was anymore.
The other great part for the kids was running after the rocket for the recovery.
We almost lost this one. Again, due to trying to photograph its fall. Tears were shed when I broke the news. Then, off in the distance, I spotted the flutter of the parachute. The day was saved.
We only launched 4 rockets in about an hour and a half. It went by quick, but it wasn’t stressful and it was quite fun. Overall an excellent activity for two, young kids and their dad. Here the rockets are cooling after their launches. I use an ammo crate I bought from a surplus store to store the rocket engines in. Rocket engines can be costly depending on the size, they usually sell 3 engines for $9. This is one area you can’t skimp on, nor should you try unless you have significant experience with handling explosives and chemistry.
They’re debating how far the wind will blow the next rocket. There are kits you can buy, usually around $50, in which you’ll get a launcher, igniter, rocket and at least one engine. Enough for hours of fun and repeat use. Once you have some experience launching, building new ones becomes quite easy. There are many more kits out there, but with some ingenuity, you can figure out how to make you own rocket out of scrap cardboard tubes (just don’t use toilet paper rolls).