Homer Hickam discovers that in order to fulfill his dream of sending rockets far above the misty Appalachian skies, he will first need to understand calculus and trigonometry.
However, there is a slight problem, as Homer can’t even comprehend algebra, much less advanced subject matter such as calculus.
Luckily, after begging the Principal and running it up the administrative ladder to confirm that such a class should indeed be available, Homer and others secure a calculus and trigonometry class for five students.
Unfortunately, despite his grades being higher than most students and having his best friends join the class, his secret "crush" Dorothy was given the fifth seat in their class, due to a higher GPA.
After accepting that he wouldn’t have a place in this class he had toiled so much to create, he and his friends, particularly a bright student named Quentin, worked out a schedule to teach him trigonometry and calculus.
Homer originally struggles with the basics and is disheartened by the fact he isn't able to assist his teammates, even entertaining the idea at quitting for his father's sake. However, Quentin and his teachers encourage him to persevere.
Through long nights and early mornings, Homer managed to grasp thoroughly the fundamentals of trigonometry and calculus. He was also quickly learning how to more effectively apply what he learned and how it affected rocketry.
Regardless, he still had yet to face his greatest challenge: his disapproving father. His father had tried to make Homer stay in Coalwood and work by his side. However after his father attempted to pressure him after dinner, Homer reached his limit. He pointed out that his father always had time and plenty of support for his brother's interest in football, so why not for his love of science?
Homer doubted his methods, he distanced himself from his friends for a time and tried to please his father, so not to break his heart. However, when the time came, he showed his father that he was doing some good for the planet and Coalwood, even inviting him to a rocket meeting after he won the National Science Fair. His father was astounded, proud and gave his blessing to Homer, asking for his forgiveness.