QUEST series producer Amy Miller contributed the following text to this story.

When QUEST first started production on the television story, “Amateur Rocketeers Reach for the Stars”, I had no idea that the amateur or experimental rocketry was so popular today. Before the producer of the story, Chris Bauer, pitched the idea, if someone had mentioned rocket-building to me, I probably would have imagined a young boy putting together a cardboard rocket and propelling it into the sky with some baking soda and vinegar.

Photo credit: Christopher Bauer

I certainly would not have conjured the images of high school students (boys AND girls) working in a lab together for weeks on end to design, build and program rockets that can reach the edges of space in order to do real scientific research. This is exactly what the some of the folks featured in Chris’s story are doing with the Rocket Mavericks program.

The official name of the organization is Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation and on the spectrum of civilian rocket building, they are all the way to the hard-core technical end. According to their website, the group strives “to enable the common man to build vehicles and conduct space exploration missions independently, launching the personalization of access to space.”

One of the main things that Rocket Mavericks director Tom Atchison is focused on is creating the next generation of rocket scientists by establishing the Explorers Program in high schools in order to inspire students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines and careers. And from the looks of concentration and excitement on the faces of the kids who are featured in our story, there’s no doubt that Atchison is succeeding in his mission to inspire these kids through rocketry.

But the other end of the rocketry spectrum and everything in between is just as exciting to learn about. Rocket clubs abound throughout California and the United States. One of the Bay Area rocket clubs featured in our story is LUNAR (Livermore Unit National Association of Rocketry). Like other rocket clubs, LUNAR is “a group of a few hundred model rocket enthusiasts of all ages, genders and cultural backgrounds who gather to learn rocketry, teach rocketry, exchange modeling techniques and of course, fly model and high-powered rockets.”

Photo credit: Christopher Bauer

According to his call sheet for the shoot that day, producer Chris Bauer traveled to a rocket launch site in the “Middle of Nowhere, California” to document the LUNAR club shooting off all kinds and sizes of rockets. One of my favorite shots in the story is that of a young girl running through a fallow field with her rocket that’s designed to look just like a giant pink crayon. That shot really points out to me that there’s something for everyone in rocketry.

Find a rocket club near you:

Amateur Rocketeers Reach For The Stars 10 March,2016Chris Bauer
  • JE Smith

    Awesome education program!

  • Gary W

    The “middle of nowhere” is actually at a Tripoli Central California launch on the Maddox Dairy in the Great Central Valley.

    • Chris Bauer

      Thanks Gary- we had a great time out there that day. And no disrespect intended. At the time I was putting together the call sheet, we had not yet been given directions and had only a vague description of a “field with nothing around it.” I was concerned we’d have to drive around the great Central Valley until we saw rockets going off! But it went off without a hitch. Thanks to everyone out there for making us feel welcome and being so accommodating! It truly was a blast!

    • Gary’s right. The LUNAR footage is all the scenes with rolling green hills. It’s a cattle ranch east of Stockton on the edge of the gold country, no the central valley.

      Great piece!

  • I love it! especially the opening clip where my son whispers excitedly to the camera… with the evidence of our powdered donut binger still on his lips!

    Here is a photo of the filming of this program:

    • Chris Bauer

      Some of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time were made by people hopped up on donuts. Thank you Steve for all your help in making this story and for your boundless enthusiasm for science and engineering!

  • way to inspire young scientists!

  • This video is fantastic.

  • sofian

    hello every body my name is sofiane from france how are youuuuuuuuuuu????

  • Thomas Atchison

    Awesome job KQED and Chris Bauers did here.

    More videos of our STEM education and research programs and the Science Channel documentary located on our youtube channel:


Chris Bauer

Chris Bauer is a Freelance Media Producer with over 20 years experience working in broadcast television; producing sports, history, technology, science, environment and adventure related programming. He is a two-time winner of the international Society of Environmental Journalists Award for Outstanding Television Story and has received multiple Northern California Emmy Awards. Some of his Quest stories have been featured in the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, United Nations Association Film Festival, the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and the Environmental Film Festival in Washington DC. A 5th generation Bay Area resident and a graduate of St. Mary's College of California, his hobbies include canoeing, snowboarding, wood-working and trying to play the ukulele. He and his family live in Alameda, CA.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor