Vehicles of the Month: Rockets and Drones

The February Second Thursday preschool program featured rockets, drones, and other flying vehicles, like airplanes and helicopters. Children made a paper spinning helicopter, read a story with Sarah from the Gwinnett County Public Library, played an asteroid impact game, and explored two vehicles up close: the rocket and the drone!


SRM volunteer Ora Ball helped out for the second month in a row by sharing his own vehicle with our toddlers and pre-K children. Last month, Ora brought his motorcycles, and this month, he shared his DJI Mavic Drone with us! He has been flying the drone since 2017 after starting with a few less complex drones. Children had an opportunity to hear the whizzing motors while the drone hovered, took off, and landed nearby. Ora brought his laptop so families could watch the view from the drone live; even more exciting, visitors had a chance to put on a VR headset to really experience the height and the train ride from above!

Ora tells us that “drone technology has come very far, very fast. Most drones are very stable now and have GPS positioning and mapping software, high definition cameras, as well as automatic return and landing features. The hobbyist and the commercial drone pilot are limited to under 400′ and need to be aware of the weather conditions and wind speeds, avoid crowds and fly safely. A commercial drone pilot is someone who can use their drone to make money with and must acquire a license from the FAA. A part 107 license is acquired by studying and taking a proctored exam. One must know how to read flight and area maps, know where obstacles are such as radio towers and be aware where one can and cannot fly. You cannot fly at night or near airports without a waiver from the FAA and a two way radio is required when doing so, to understand the traffic in the skies.”

Drone pilots are allowed to fly 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset. We asked Ora what he likes to see with his drone. “I have gotten some beautiful sunset shots from home while sitting on my back deck,” he says. “My favorite photos and video have been fireworks at dusk in Atlanta and shots of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.”


For the third year, Jorge Blanco from Southern Area Rocketry (a.k.a. SoAR) joined the education department at SRM Jorge, the president of SoAR, built simple rockets with program attendees using paper, tape, and Play-Doh. With help from their accompanying adults, children wrapped a piece of paper tightly around a metal cylinder (a mandrel) and taped the side to get the shape of their rocket. After removing the mandrel, each child selected his or her favorite color of Play-Doh to cover one end of their paper rocket.

Children then prepared their rockets for liftoff by placing them on a plastic tube (the launchpad) connected to a small, inflatable pillow-type bag. To launch the rocket, kids (and adults!) jumped on the inflatable bag. Some of our guests saw their rockets hit the ceiling before coming back to earth. Stomp rockets have been a huge hit during past programs, and we’re already looking forward to next year.

To learn more about model rockets or to get involved with the local National Association of Rocketry club, visit the Southern Area Rocketry website and Facebook!

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