Middle school students from across the state are getting a jump start on learning this week at the NASA Aviation Summer Camp at West Virginia University.
This year, the camp includes 45 students from 20 West Virginia counties. It's aimed at engaging kids in science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) fields of learning.
"Mathematics is fun, science is fun. It's not just books. We're trying to make it realistic to them," said Candy Cordwell, program director for the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium.
The group spent Wednesday touring WVU's facilities and trying out some new experiences.
"I've always been thinking about pursuing something in technology and flying and stuff in space," said West Fairmont Middle School student Reina Edwards. "I've always been interested, ever since I was little."
"We actually did get to use a simulator of an F-4 phantom so that was extremely fun," said Luke Knollinger, of Bridge Street Middle School in Wheeling, "and right now we're building rockets so it's just been great."
While plastic bottles don't seem like "realistic" rockets, it introduces students to the basics of flight.
"This is my first time," Edwards said. "Luckily someone in my group has done it before so he's telling me about how everything works, where the flaps and the fins and all that should go."
The students are here thanks to funding from the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, which aims to boost the state's trained workforce in the STEM fields.
"We just like to let them know that is science in West Virginia, that there are opportunities, there are careers," Cordwell said.
Knollinger, who's a member of the civil air patrol in Wheeling, is already hooked and ready to take off.
"The secret to building a good rocket is having me build it," he said. "But really, you have to have weight on the nose cone, and good fins. That's about it."
The kids fired off the rockets later Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday they head to Wheeling and the Challenger Learning Center to fly a simulated space mission, then they'll visit the mid Atlantic Aerospace Complex in Bridgeport on Friday.