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Forsyth Flight launches kids’ love of rocketry
Forsyth Flight
Kerry Byler holds the paper tube for the rocket he and his son Knox are building Saturday as Knox tapes the tube closed. - photo by Jim Dean

This weekend, members of the Forsyth Flight of the Gainesville Cadet Squadron, hosted an event to get youngsters fired up about rocketry, shooting air-powered bottle rockets into the sky and learning about the importance of aerospace in today’s world.

“It went better than we could have ever expected,” said Squadron Commander, Lt. Colonel Chris Auger.

The Gainesville Cadet Squadron, a branch of the national Civil Air Patrol, was chartered in 2011 to serve as, “fully qualified and unpaid search and rescue aircrews, airborne photographers and humanitarian aid volunteers” and teach its cadets, “respect, leadership and a military lifestyle,” according to the group’s website.

According to Auger, the Gainesville Cadet Squadron holds this event each year in hopes of skyrocketing interest before the annual open house the group will hold on Feb. 1. 

He said that they had more than 130 young people at the event and each one was eager to learn about rockets.

“For younger kids it’s about basic exposure, introducing them to more than just cars, planes and buses. But for the older ones who can actually join we want to show them what we do,” he said.  “From what I could tell they were having a good time — the parents too.”

Forsyth Flight
Knox Byler’s rocket goes flying. The cardboard rocket flew a full 75 meters, just over 245 feet on Saturday. - photo by Jim Dean
During the event, Chris Auger and his wife, Cpt. Amy Auger, gave a presentation to the young people and their parents about some of the basic science of aerospace and walked them through activities and exercises to demonstrate Newton’s three laws. 

Attendees then got to work on making their own rockets out of card stock that would be fired off of PVC pipes fitted to 2 liter plastic bottles.

“It’s one of the easiest ways to kind of get aerospace across to kids,” said Amy Auger. “Some went really far.”

One of the participants, 5-year-old Knox Byler, had his rocket fly 25 meters, and was one of the few that had to be measured for distance.  

“I stomped and jumped at the same time, that’s how it went so far,” laughed Knox Byler, excitedly. 

Knox’s dad Kerry Byler said that they loved the event. “Oh it’s fantastic. It’s a great event,” he said.

Amy Auger said that this was the first event that they have held at the Cumming Library, and that’s why they chose to not limit it to any one age group. She said that normally they would focus on children aged 12 to 17 — the ages that are old enough to join up with the Gainesville Cadet Squadron.

“The idea here is getting them into the idea that aerospace is a fun thing, versus ‘rocket science is hard’ … and once they get to middle school when science is kind-of uncool, we want them to have that background and say, ‘no, science is fun and aerospace science is even more fun because we get to shoot stuff off,’” she said. 

Amanda Harding said that the event was perfect for her 3-year-old daughter Lilly who has been seriously considering a career in rocket science. 

“She was very, very in to it. Very into watching the rockets and surprisingly, about watching Newton’s laws … For at least the last year she’s said that she wanted to be a doctor an astronaut and a pilot,” Harding said.

Lilly was almost too excited to speak at the event saying only, “Awesome. I’m ready,” before going out to launch her rocket.   

Amy Auger said that their priority is to turn kids into lifelong science learners.  

“And that’s kind of our goal, to make the aerospace and aviation we love come to life for kids,” she said. 

The Forsyth flight of the Civil Air Patrol Gainesville Cadet Squadron will hold an open house on Thursday, Feb. 1 from 7:15 to 9 p.m. at VFW post 9143, 1045 Dahlonega Highway, Cumming.  

Amy Auger said that anyone from age 12 to 112 is welcome to come an learn about joining the Civil Air Patrol at the event Thursday. 

“From [ages] 12 to 112, there is something for everyone,” she said.