Rocket Boys

by Homer Hickam

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In the book Rocket Boys, who was in charge of the science fair?

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Rocket Boys, the memoir of former NASA engineer, Vietnam War veteran, and now best-selling author Homer "Sonny" Hickman Jr., was published in 1998. It follows Hickman Jr.'s coming of age in a small mining town in West Virginia called Coalwood. Much of the book focuses on his pursuit, alongside his childhood friends, of amateur rocketry.

Inspired by the Russian satellite Sputnik, which achieved orbit in 1957, Sonny decides to pursue a career as a rocket engineer with the ambition of joining a team of American engineers known as the Missile Agency. Homer's first attempt ends in destroying his family's property. But he later gathers a team to help, which includes Quentin Wilson, Roy Lee Cooke, Sherman Siers, Billy Rose, and Jimmy Carroll. They call themselves the Big Creek Missle Agency (BCMA), but they come to be known as the Rocket Boys.

A lot of BCMA's work is guided by teachers who are sympathetic to their boundless curiosity. One of these teachers is Miss Riley, who manages the school's entries into the county science fair. Miss Riley convinces the boys they should channel the energy from their often mischievous endeavors into the county science fair. When the boys are accused of starting a forest fire, Miss Riley quickly comes to their defense.

Though originally reluctant, Homer decides to follow Miss Riley's advice and compete in the county science fair. (She warned him that he may regret it for the rest of his life if he didn't pursue his passion.) BCMA goes on to win the county fair as well as the National Science Fair, a country-wide competition. Without Miss Riley's help, the history of rocketry might have taken a far different course.

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