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Blast off!
By Bethan L. Jones/ Staff Writer
Thursday, July 14, 2005

It's not often that parents encourage their offspring to light fires or blow things up.
     Students in the Lexplorations summer program Rocketry and Space, however, have the rare opportunity to experience a week of rocket construction which culminates with explosions.
     In their classroom at the Clarke Middle School, the 15 students, all who will be going into the fifth grade in September, are set up in groups of three or four to share glue and scissors, the important tools for building their alpha rockets.
     When rocket construction time begins after lunch, a state of organized chaos breaks out. Puneet Harisinghani, 10, and Anthony Fabbo, 9, begin by poking each other in the head with the pointed noses of their rockets.
     David Colarusso, a physics teacher at Lexington High School during the academic year, calls attention to the front of the room as he explains the first step of the day's construction, which is placing the engine mount inside the cardboard body of the rockets.
     "We can't wait until they explode," said Phillip Ballo, 10, a Harrington Elementary School student. Ballo is at a table of four, three of whom are fellow Harrington students.
     Ballo has had some previous experience with rockets, having attended a camp at the Museum of Science in Boston. Ballo said, however, the rocket presently in several pieces on his desk is not the same kind he has used before. This unfamiliar territory created some confusion with the directions, but "Mr. C" managed to clear things up.
     "It's sort of easy," said Ballo, adding his rocket can take on a new life when camp is over on Friday. "The rockets are reusable so I can just put in another motor."
     Across the table Harisinghani and Daniel Loran, 10, are having a tough time attaching the parachute cord to the nose of the rocket. While Colarusso patiently explained the process, the two needed to see the demonstration of folding the paper around the elastic cord one more time.
     "Easier said than done," said Loran, he hands covered with glue.
     While figuring out how to follow the directions, the four boys chat about the various things they have learned in a day and a half of camp.
     "I think that Galileo guy was pretty cool," said Loran, with the other boys nodding and agreeing before they all start singing the Mario Brothers game theme song.
     The rocketry class is one of several programs offered by Lexington Community Education through Lexplorations, which offers fun summer classes for kids. Along with building their rockets, the students also learn about light, space and basic physics. Three days end with paper airplane competitions in categories like distance and time aloft. Of course, the highlight of the program is at the end of the week when the rockets are set off on one of the playing fields.
     Jeremy Smith, 10, on this day is in the midst of building his rocket. New to Lexington, he and his family just moved from Washington state. He will attend Hastings Elementary School in the fall. Smith has two rockets at home and is excited the class is helping him better understand them.
     "It's really fun," said Smith. "It's cool to know how something works."
     Twirling his yellow and black parachute in the air, Smith said how he has enjoyed hanging out with his classmates, who are almost all boys, and learning about the various topic covered under the broad umbrella of rocketry and space, especially enjoying pretending to be a wave of light.
     "I like Mr. C. He makes everything fun," said Smith. "He's a really great teacher."
     With the completion of the rocket building for the day, Colarusso has a demonstration with mirrors to illustrate the concept of real images before beginning the next project for the afternoon.
     "Maybe it blows up," said Loran excitedly.
     For that, the eager students will have to wait for Friday.

As one of the final rockets goes skyward, Justin LeClair, a counselor, and campers Alexander Mines, 9, and Ben Franks, 10, watch. (Staff photo by Ann Ringwood)
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