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4-H: cows, plows and… rockets?

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Pinedale – The Fourth of July may have come and gone, but for Sublette County 4-H member Matthew Schafer, rockets can go off any day of the week.
Schafer will be a senior this fall, and after high school he intends to pursue his 4-H interests beyond the project.
“I plan on going into robotics. Aerospace is a great hobby, but robotics is my passion,” says Schafer.
Schafer has been participating in the 4-H aerospace project for the last five years, and has become the local “go-to” guy when it comes to rockets.
”Matthew has taught many classes not only here in Sublette County, but also statewide. He taught two classes at the Wyoming 4-H Showcase Showdown, one at State Leaders Conference and many more,” says Sublette County Extension Agent Robin Schamber.
Schafer’s workshops allow participants to build their own rocket and improve their own personal skills. Schafer has had participants ranging from beginning 4-H members to adults looking to find a new hobby.
“Depending on their age, I sometimes go into the dynamics of the rockets and the reasons that they will or won’t work. There are many different dynamics to have a successful rocket,” adds Schafer.
The 4-H aerospace project includes all members building their own rockets and then shooting them off, either at the county fair or the Showcase Showdown, which takes place towards the end of June and is an opportunity for 4-H members to show off their talents and compete in various competitions as a culmination to their hard work.
The aerospace project helps members to strengthen their problem solving skills, critical thinking and decision-making priorities, says project information.
“Younger members usually buy basic kits to build their projects. The older the members get, the less instructions they have, and by the time they are seniors (13- to 18-year-olds) they are building rockets from scratch,” explains Schafer.
Through the aerospace project, 4-H emphasizes not only the mechanics behind building rockets, but also the differences in other flying objects, such as hot air balloons or airplanes. According to the project’s information sheet, 4-H also uses this as a gateway program to show members what it would be like to work as a pilot or on a flight crew and it shows members different career opportunities within the aerospace field.
After members build their rocket, they launch it in a contest with the objective being the farthest launch. There are two areas of competition: individual and team competition. In the team competition, teams have between three and five members who work together to build a rocket to launch.
Although there is not currently a national 4-H aerospace competition, teams may enter and compete in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) if they so choose.
The Sublette County 4-H program has become known across the state for pioneering and blazing the trail for 4-H science projects. Project areas such as robotics and aerospace are not unique to Sublette County, but they are very successful there, and Schafer is another great example of youth growing up in 4-H, discovering their passions and pursuing their dreams.
Tressa Lawrence is an editorial intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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