Of the Baker City Herald

andquot;, blast off!andquot; was the cry that echoed through the Baker Sports Complex Tuesday morning as 68 third graders from North and South Baker schools launched their handmade rockets towards the clouds.

The amateur rocket makers were students of teachers Kelly Lacey, Mick Lane and Victoria Howard of North Baker Elementary and Mary Black of South Baker Elementary.

Most of the rockets launched successfully. A few went off course, and one or two failed to launch on the first try, but most gained considerable altitude before returning to earth, thereby demonstrating the principle that what goes up, must come down.

andquot;I think its wonderful,andquot; Lacey said. andquot;They (the students) have a great time making the rockets. They learned a lot. Of course, this is the best part blasting off.andquot;

She said the students learn about physics, mathematics, the history of rockets and other properties of the devices. Each child made their own rocket using a paper tube, a plastic nose cone, a streamer to slow the rocket's return to earth, propellant, and a blasting cap to set it off.

All spectators, mostly parents and younger brothers and sisters, stayed behind a ribbon barrier some distance away from the launch line. The rocket makers were required to stay behind a second line closer to the launch zone.

Only adult launch assistants and the maker of each rocket were allowed to stand at the take off line.

Each child called out the countdown, with the help of their classmates behind the safe line, and the adult launcher set the rocket off.

A few rockets fizzled and didn't go too high. Only one rocket failed to ignite in the first three tries.

However, rocket girl Chanda Christensen persisted and her rocket took off on the fourth try, gaining lots of height before falling back. All of her classmates cheered her successful launch.

Will Barr's nose cone buried itself so deep in the turf that he had to work pretty hard to get it free.

andquot;It's pretty cool,andquot; he said about the program. andquot;I wish mine had launched farther.andquot;

andquot;I can't believe the year is almost over with,andquot; said Howard. andquot;This is a great way to blast off the end.andquot;

Howard said the program was begun last year by Lane as a way to teach the kids some practical science as well as have some fun at the end of the year. Each child bought their own components, assembled the rockets and painted them in distinct patterns for identification purposes.

A number of adult volunteers assisted in the launching. Most had experience in amateur rocketry, which has been a popular hobby for more than 50 years.

andquot;It's a great program for the kids,andquot; said Steve Chambers, one of the launchers. andquot;It combines everything they learned in the classroom,andquot; and he said it was a great way for the kids to see a practical use of what they learned. Chambers added that he and his son, Trevor, often launch their own rockets, although they use commercially made models.

andquot;They're fun,andquot; Chambers said. andquot;I came out as a parent today and was enlistedandquot; to help.

The students last day at school is Thursday.