In Coalwood, West Virginia in 1957, every boy grows up thinking they are destined to be coal miners, and Homer Hickam has no reason to think he'll be any different. Hes not talented enough to earn a football scholarship, which is usually the only way any of them can escape coal mining. Homer has no way out of his predetermined life - until the Soviet satellite Sputnik flies over the October sky and changes everything. A dream is started and with much determination, is later accomplished.
Universal Pictures presents October Sky, which is based on the triumphant true story of Homer Hickam, Jr., a high school student in West Virginia, who seemed destined to repeat his father's life in the coal mines until he turned his attention to the skies.
The coal mine is the center of life in the closely-knit community of Coalwood, West Virginia. As mine superintendent, Homer's father (John Hickam) has worked his way up to a position of status in his community. John loves the coal mine. The mine is the whole reason for the town to be there. There was no Coalwood before someone found coal there and built the town around the mine. Homer's father is a central figure in all this and would love for Homer and his brother, Jim, to grow up to be mine supervisors. He has no greater wish than to see his sons follow in his footsteps, But Jim has won a football scholarship and Homer has other ideas about his future. Inspired by Dr. Werner Von Braun, he sets out to build and launch his own rocket with the help of three of his friends. He builds his first rocket by using the powder from cherry bombs. He thinks that it's going to go up three hundred feet but instead it blows up his mom's fence. Not discouraged, Homer enlists two of his bud!
dies, Roy Lee and O'Dell, along with the town math geek Quentin, to help him design and launch a series of rockets. They all bring to the task their own personalities and passions. Homer himself isn't a whiz at math, but Quentin brings that in. He's not a scavenger, but O'Dell knows where to get all the materials they need. Roy Lee had the ability to seduce what they needed from other people. Homer brings the passion. He brings the fire into the boys and forces them to keep at it, at times even when they're not willing to - he makes them willing.
Their physics and chemistry teacher Miss Riley finds them an advanced book on rockets and they teach themselves trigonometry to gauge the range of their rockets. Miss Riley uses her role as a teacher to be an inspiration and to teach the boys, particularly Homer, that he can truly be who he's capable of being and who he really wants to be, despite any pressure around him. After some early disasters, they set up a launch pad on an abandoned place outside of town, which was named Cape Coalwood. The first successful rocket that they shoot off is called the Auk I. The rocket goes up and then curves and heads down towards the mine and everybody runs off in every different direction to try and get away from it. The rocket lands near his father's office at the mine, causing him to explode in embarrassment and anger. Homer realizes that his father is not interested at all in what he's doing, building rockets. It makes him really sad, angry and torn up. His father has no support fo!
r what Homer has a passion for. He just throws the rocket into the trash. Though John Hickam believes his son is wasting his time, his mother Elsie encourages him to persevere. The main conflict in this story is the boy wanting to fulfill a dream. Elsie would do anything for her child and wants him to achieve his dream. His father is more practical, not all dreams come true. Nor everybody can be a rocket scientist. Especially in a small town in West Virginia where rocket scientists are pretty much unheard of.
There's an aspect of John Hickams concern towards his son of don't get your hopes up, but it's part of his love for his son. Homer's father thinks this rocket stuff - which he very little knowledge about - is silly. He doesn't want his son's heart to be broken going after something so distant
As their rocket tests begin to go higher and straighter, the boys become local celebrities, drawing crowds to watch their launches. They raise money selling scrap metal and convince mine machinists to manufacture casements and nozzles for the rockets. As they get better and better at it, and the rockets start going higher and higher, the prospect of entering a science fair and maybe winning a scholarship starts to seem almost within reach. Then it becomes the fulfillment of not Just his dreams, but the hopes of the whole town.
He later wins the Science Fare, gets his town to believe in those unlucky ones and most importantly, he didnt just win the expectance of his father but completes his life long dream.
- Carawan, A. (1999). Let the Hammer Down: The Making of October Sky. W. W. Norton & Company.
- Coalwood, West Virginia. (2021). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Coalwood
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- Hickam Jr., H. (1999). The Coalwood Way. Delta.
- Johnson, S. M. (2002). October Sky: A Movie that Entices the Learning of Mathematics. PRIMUS: Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies, 12(4), 281-296.
- Jones, D. (1999). Rocket Boys: A Memoir. Publishers Weekly, 246(47), 71.
- October Sky (1999). Directed by Joe Johnston. United States: Universal Pictures.
- Sputnik. (2022). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sputnik
- The Coalwood Rocket Boys. (2021). In NASA. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/history/coalwood.html
- The Coalwood Rocket Launchers. (2021). In West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved from https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/2227