Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 8, 2012

Hickam and hundreds celebrate Rocket Boys in Beckley


Virginia Tech engineering students were among those on hand to help youths build rockets they launched later in the day and understand how science, especially physics, is involved in the rockets’ ability to jet into the air. Jenna Spencer, a freshman general engineering major at Virginia Tech, is from Scott Depot and thought it was “cool to meet the Rocket Boys ... and be back.”

Ryan Hatton, of Blairstown, N.J., was also one of the Virginia Tech engineering students assisting possible future rocket scientists. Hatton said he attended last year’s Rocket Boys Festival in Coalwood, but only bottle rockets were launched. This year, though, real, small rockets could be launched because of the space at New River Park. Hatton said he hopes middle and high school students are inspired by math and science and the story of Hickam.

Drew Stafford, of Flat Top Lake, was among those building a rocket to watch it launch.

“They’re fun,” Stafford said of rockets.

Stafford’s father, John, brought Drew and his other son Noah to the event. John Stafford said he worked as an engineer and had been attending the Rocket Boys Festival in Coalwood for 10 years. He took his sons to Saturday’s event because of an interest in science and the history and importance of the space program.

As part of the day of festivities, Isabella Rotellini, 11, and Raegan Hefner, 11, crafted paper airplanes to see just how far they would fly.

Rotellini attended the Rocket Boys Festival because her science teacher at St. Francis de Sales encouraged her and other students to be inspired by Hickam: If you put your mind to it, you can do anything. At school Friday, Rotellini met Hickam, who talked about growing up in a coal town and how knowledge is power, she explained.

Hefner, a student at Shady Spring Middle School, said she was looking forward to building and decorating a rocket and seeing just how far it would go.

Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, Hill called the turnout and response “very positive.”


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