As a kid growing up in Colorado, I spent a good portion of my summers playing outside. I enjoyed hiking around our home in the mountains with my dogs and my brother. I always liked making things with my hands, building models, and especially model rockets. Estes Industries was located in Penrose, Colorado, and I remember being so excited to receive their annual catalogue in the mail and start mail ordering those amazing rocket kits. It was so rewarding to build something that flew and could be recovered to be flown again and again.
Now flash forward to my having my own kids and introducing them to model rocketry. From an early age both my children, David and Ruby, played with water rockets, stomp rockets, and finally the same model rockets I built as a kid. Some friends and I formed our own section of the Model Rocketry Association Club – RGeeks (short for Rocket Geeks). We launched at 60 acres park in Woodinville with an FAA waiver to send 4lbs up to a height of 3000 feet. We could call Seattle Traffic Control to activate the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) and spend all afternoon with co-workers, friends and their families launching rockets with A thru G motors. It was spectacular to see the kids so excited, and reminded me of my years in Colorado. We even auctioned off a few rocket launches at my son’s annual school fundraisers over the years.
As my kids got older, we would get busy with school and other activities but always tried to work in a rocket launch now and then. Finally, when my son David went to school (Mechanical Engineering at Gonzaga University), he ended up starting the first model rocketry club at GU, helping to involve others in the sport and to get their Level 1, and eventually Level 2, High Power Certifications. His capstone engineering project was a group effort to build a hybrid rocket motor test rig, which now lives in the engineering department at GU.
Last year we went to two high power rocket launches, and this Labor Day we will go again. Both David and Ruby still build and launch rockets. Some of their rockets are very big and go thousands of feet up into the air with electronics onboard that gather velocity, acceleration, and altitude data during the flight. We even use simulation software to test/predict the flight profiles of our High-Power vehicles before launch. This helps to be sure the launch is safe and that the rocket will perform as expected.
With the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing this year, Apollo 11, I was reminded how the Saturn V rocket is still the most complex machine ever built. The 400+ companies and hundreds of thousands of people who worked on the project were part of the beginnings of modern-day Systems Engineering.
My work as a Systems Engineer at Base 2 Solutions and Model Rocketry have many things in common. Getting my customers and my kids to think about what their requirements are and how to control the variables to achieve their objectives on time and on budget with high quality is both challenging and rewarding. This coming Labor Day weekend 2019 David, Ruby, and I will once again be on site building and launching our rockets. That same feeling of accomplishment is what I feel every day working at Base 2 as a Systems Engineer. In some ways, model rocketry is helping to create the next generation of systems engineers who will solve complex problems in the future.
Thanks for reading… now to the countdown… 5…. 4… 3…. 2…. 1… LIFT OFF!!
Bill Barnes is a highly qualified Business Consultant / Analyst and Network Engineer with over 20 years of experience. Having managed business and network processes and data for Fortune 500 companies, Bill is experienced at analyzing business needs and optimizing processes used to gain improvements through automation, and is skilled in working cross functionally within different groups in order to communicate requirements using Business Analysis best practices.