If retired Alpena Public Schools teacher Mike Stoll were to adopt a nickname, it could easily be "Rocket Man." He's been teaching rocketry science since 1986 when he worked at Wilson School.
"I started a young astronaut program at Wilson School, and then rocketry became part of that program. Kids always enjoyed the launching," Stoll said.
He retired in 2006 after teaching for 13 years at the former Oxbow School (now ACES Academy) and for 23 years at Wilson School. Upon retirement, he went to work part-time for Sprinkler Lake, where among other duties, he shares his fondness for science and rocketry.
Stoll also has led rocketry programs through the Gifted and Talented Program at Alpena High School, including a four-day session held earlier this year.
His latest commitment is to offer an Aim for the Stars Rocket Camp at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan. This second annual event will be held Aug. 16-19 from 9 a.m. to noon. Participants will get to build their own Estes Viking rocket, plus learn the importance of safety and the conditions for a successful launch.
Students also will explore the fundamentals of rocket propulsion based on Newton's Three Laws of Motion, and conduct scientific experiments to test these laws.
According to Stoll, the particular kind of rockets to be built have a fin design that allows each student to make their own adaptation of fins. All of the participants will, however, use the same size engine.
"We're using the smallest engine due to the space at the museum and so that they can recover their rocket," he said.
Right from the first day, the students will begin building their rocket, but they also will spend time learning the principles of science that govern the rocketry.
"I'll also be teaching a little bit of math and geometry that goes along with the height of their rocket," Stoll said. "It's a math-science class, so it is a little more in-depth."
Since for 20-plus years, Stoll has been involved in teaching others about how to build and launch a rocket, he knows that the class is a popular one with participants. The grand finale of the camp is always the last day when the kids get to launch their handmade rockets.
"It's hands-on. They create and build something that can actually fly," Stoll said of the camp's popularity. "They also learn electrical components of a system. They learn what the engines can do and the safety. I really stress the safety."
Cost to attend the Rocket Camp is $55 per camper, which includes all materials (rocket, engine, igniter and instructor fees). The class is geared to kids ages 9 to 11 years old. Museum members receive a 15 percent discount in the camp fee.
To sign up for the camp, contact the Besser Museum at 356-2202.