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Rocket competition fires up kids for science and technology

Kern County kids showed off their science know-how at the Intermediate Space Challenge competition Friday, May 6, 2016, at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Some eastern Kern County kids showed off their science know-how at the Intermediate Space Challenge competition Friday at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

The contest is run by a nonprofit group that aims get kids fired up about science and technology.

In all, 27 rockets blasted off, built by students from schools in Mojave and California City.

"It was really cool at first, and it was fun," Cal City Middle School student Katreona Karnes told Eyewitness News. She was on the rocket-building team for her group.

"We had to learn how to sand down the wings on the space ship, also we had to put it together," the sixth-grader explained.

She's right in the target group the project is aiming for. The competition is for students from 9 to 11 years old.

"That's when they kind of make their minds up either math is fun, or it's like -- I don't like it," Marie Walker said. She's the executive director of "ESTEEM," Education, Technology, Science, Environment, Energy and Math. She said they try to show kids that science and math are fun.

"Instead of just sitting around desks in a classroom," Walker explains, "we turn the classroom into a little business." She said the kids form teams to build rockets, make banners, come up with a slogan, and write an illustrated essay.

"This program really, really, really ignites their imaginations," Walker said.

On Friday, the rockets were sent off one by one -- with kids watching and cheering below. The rockets then floated back down with parachutes, and were picked up.

Mojave Elementary teacher Tim Lomba said students learn about science, and even more.

"Team work," he adds, "that there is somewhere beyond Earth, and they're watching rockets, and building and launching with it."

Walker said her organization is in its twelfth year, and they hope to expand into even more areas across the state.

"We've actually got kids now thinking about careers in science, and we believe America needs that," she said.

Katreona Karnes said building her team's rocket was the best part of the program, and seeing it blast off was great.

"I was really excited," she said. "I was hoping ours would stay together. It didn't, but that's OK."

Teams earned points, and at the end of the competition, Mojave Elementary was named the grand winner.

After accepting the big trophy, principal Daniel Sexton said they're proud, but the other 26 teams are winners, too.

"Any time you get a group of young people together and you have this spirit of innovation," Sexton said, "I think they're all walking away winners, whether they have a trophy or not."

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