SYCAMORE – It took 12-year-old Caden Sell a week to assemble his own rocket out of a paper towel roll, toilet paper, drinking straw, plastic egg, rubber bands and string.
And the Sycamore boy's work paid off. Sell was the only 4-H youth to make his own rocket for the youth development organization's General Project Show. He launched his rocket hundreds of feet into the sky Thursday.
The rocket included a B44 engine that was ignited from the electric current of an ignitor pin. Seven 4-H youths participated in the rocket launch.
"It's a really cheap way to do it," Sell said about his $25 rocket. "Maybe they don't look that nice, but they're definitely cheap."
The rocket launch was not the only event that took place during the show, which showcases projects by 4-H'ers chosen from more than 170 different project areas, including aerospace, visual arts, woodworking and animal science. The event also included a fashion revue and silent auction.
About 150 youth ranging from 7 to 18 years old got to pick their own projects in the field of their choice. The projects were on display Wednesday and Thursday and judged. Winners will represent DeKalb County in the 4-H portion of the Illinois State Fair.
Aerospace is a focus this year for 4-H as the organization emphasizes science education. Last year, 4-H'ers served as science ambassadors and taught science lessons in wind turbines, robotics and biofuels, said Johnna Jennings, 4-H youth development educator.
"That's going to be crucial for them in the future," Jennings said. "We all know science is pretty important."
Thursday was about the fourth time 14-year-old John Limberis of Sycamore got to launch his rocket, which he assembled from a rocket kit. In his seven years in 4-H, he has learned that any imperfections on a rocket can affect the way it launches.
Limberis' rocket failed to launch as high into the air as other rockets, and his parachute deployed shortly after the engine ignited.
"I've learned that if there's a problem, fix it yourself or create your own solution to the problem," he said.
Other youth did not choose to launch their own rocket, electing to focus on visual arts instead. Allie Schneider, 14, of DeKalb, chose the field of cake decorating. It was the first year cake decorating was a project area for 4-H participants.
Schneider's cake was made using a cake mold. On it, she wrote, "Good Luck Tia!" because her sister's friend Tia was at her home when she decorated the cake.
"When I get bored, I make cupcakes and decorate them just for fun," Schneider said. "I just decided I wanted to try it out."
It was Nick Rigas' first time participating in the 4-H General Project Show. The 16-year-old DeKalb resident made a fused glass art depiction of two flowers with blue petals.
Rigas had to cut the glass before putting it into a kiln, where the glass pieces heated up and fused together.
Rigas plans to be a therapist when he is older. He said being involved with 4-H will look good on his resume.
"People are really accepting," Rigas said. "You get to contribute to the community more, and you can expand your horizons."
Jennings' daughter, 16-year-old Justene, participated in the fields of stained glass, cake decorating, cooking, photography and animal science. She received a ribbon to participate in the state fair for her stained glass art of poppy flowers.
Justene is following in the footsteps of her mother and grandparents, who were all in 4-H.
"You just learn a lot of fun skills," she said. "It gives you a lot of options for the future."
General Project Show
Select list of 4-H project areas represented:
• Visual arts
• Food & Nutrition
• Bicycle welding
• Interior design
• Theatre Arts