The homemade rocket shot into the sky on a stream of water, spraying some of the 25 kids standing outside General Dynamics in Scottsdale before landing on top of a three-story building.
“It’s going to be hard to get that down!” yelled third-grader Juliet Wilson.
Juliet and her peers were participating Tuesday in the General Dynamics Challenger Space Camp, a weeklong program put on by the Peoria-based Challenger Space Center for the third- through eighth-grade children of General Dynamics employees.
The company has offered the program every summer since 2002 to help expose kids to science, said Fran Jacques, a General Dynamics spokeswoman.
As the need for engineers expands, it becomes more important to get kids interested in science early, Jacques said.
“They develop a lifelong love for it, and they go on to get engineering degrees,” she said. “That’s been the case with a lot of the engineers I’ve talked with — their love of engineering started in grade school.”
The kids are divided into two groups, with third- through fifth-graders learning about what would go into building a moon base, and sixth- through eighth-graders learning about some of the challenges faced by engineers who work on robots, Jacques said.
A total of 100 kids participated in classes this year at either General Dynamics’ Scottsdale or Gilbert locations.
Juliet’s father, General Dynamics employee John Wilson, said his daughter has been waiting to enter the program for two or three years, ever since he first mentioned it to his older son.
Now that Juliet is old enough to attend, she’s having a blast, Wilson said.
“She came home telling me and her mom it’s more fun than the mall,” he said.
Juliet said she was interested in the class after doing science experiments in school. And while she has enjoyed learning about the Apollo 13 and Challenger missions, Juliet said her favorite activity has been learning how to make the bottle rockets.
“Too bad my brother’s not here, he’s missing out,” she said.
Stephen Hall said he has enrolled both his sons in the program because it gives kids hands-on experience, he said.
“It’s very important for our children to have a spark of excitement about science,” Hall said. “That’s the only way we can stay competitive in the global market.”