Rocket Bikes in Huntsville
Once in a while you are asked to be a part of something you think could be fun and hopefully inspiring. Living in Huntsville, I meet a lot of people, and a few know me for some of my crazy inventions. I got a special request from a local 6th grader this past week relating to my rocket bike history. Yes, I have a rocket powered bicycle. It is not my first. In fact, it is one of four I have built.
This is not directly related to the Rocket City Space Pioneers, but somewhat connected. As a matter of fact, connecting to young people is a very important component of what Googld desires to gain from its sponsorship of the Google Lunar X PRIZE.
This young student named Olivia Southerland loves math and science and was excited to find her dad John Southerland had a crazy rocket scientist friend who also likes to have fun.
Olivia and her dad came out to my Man Cave last Sunday to see my rocket powered inventions and to ask me a few interesting questions like, “Why put a rocket motor on a bike?” I had to do some thinking... I have found that connecting and resonating with young people is not often easy, especially for old guys like me! Nowadays you have to be clever, energetic, or really creative to capture their imagination. Sometimes the right recipe to reach them comes in the form of finding the right “hook” that catches or attracts their attention. Ideally, the hook would be something they can relate to in their everyday life.
It is fun for me to take some moderately interesting technical subject and package it in such a way as to make it relevant or cool to people of all ages. This is not easy to do. It was clear to me many years ago that rocket science is rarely seen up close and the idea of a safe rocket powered cycle was even rarer. I decided several years ago that a hybrid rocket motor could be put onto a regular bicycle safely if the thrust remained low enough.
Let’s face it: kids and adults love bicycles. What person has not wanted a little help to get them up that long hill? Who hasn’t seen the coyote on cartoons on Saturday mornings with a rocket strapped to something? You should be getting the gist. Olivia asked some tough questions and we had a good time. She invited me to go speak at her school next week and fire a hybrid rocket similar to what I used on my first rocket bike. I agreed to do it and share with the students new and exciting stories of what fun people can have with rockets!