By Jack Minch
Sentinel & Enterprise
LEOMINSTER — Dozens of members from the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster started a countdown from 10 and when they reached one … nothing happened.
After a short launch delay and a couple of adjustments, the first compressed air-powered rocket took flight Tuesday morning outside the club.
Olivia Latino and Andrea Harding, both 8, squealed as the rocket took off with a popping noise.
It was a clear example of Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, which dictates that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, said Nancy Howe, of Holden, who put on the demonstration with Bob Mersereau, of Shrewsbury
“If you push something, it pushes back, Howe said.
Mersereau is a volunteer at the club and both he and Howe are member of the Aldrich Astronomical Society Inc., which meets at Anna Maria College in Paxton.
Mersereau suggested the class as a fun summer activity to supplement the astronomy program he runs at the club. Executive Director Donata Martin has the club focused on science, technology, engineering and math programming, he said.
The children got some feet-on experience launching stomp rockets. Balloon rockets were also on the agenda.
Howe told the club members she joined a backyard astronomy group nine years ago, and as soon as she saw the rings around Saturn through a telescope, she was hooked on space.
“For the beauty,” Howe said. Many other astronomers like the science, she said.
Howe told the children Newton “was a 17th century smart guy and observed the world around him and asked questions, then came up with rules.”
A rocket doesn’t press against the ground, its propulsion pushes the rocket forward, she said.
Fourth-grader John Cochran of Leominster said it was his first experience watching rockets launch but likes science and space.
“It’s pretty up there and cool — and freezing,” he said.
Latino, of Leominster, said she has several books about the planets at home.
“I don’t really know (why), it’s just really interesting,” she said.
Harding, of Fitchburg, said she liked the way the air-powered rocket flew straight up and then hit the ground with a popping noise before bouncing high again.
She hopes to be an astronomer and scientist someday while Latino wants to be an artist drawing pictures of planets.
Luis Sanchez, 12, of Leominster, called it an amazing launch and described it as sounding like popcorn in a microwave.
“First rocket I ever saw,” Luis said.
Renee Mercier, 12, of Leominster, and Megan Vasquez, 9, of Fitchburg, assisted.
The Aldrich Astronomical Society meets in the college’s science building every other Saturday at 7:30 p.m. It has about 80 members from Central Massachusetts.