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Archive for Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Ready for launch

Eudora High rocket club counts down to national competition

April 3, 2007

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Eudora High School students from the Aerospace Alliance stand with some third- through eighth-graders who attended a rocket-building workshop on Saturday. The students display a model rocket along with the rockets they made at the workshop.

Eudora High School students from the Aerospace Alliance stand with some third- through eighth-graders who attended a rocket-building workshop on Saturday. The students display a model rocket along with the rockets they made at the workshop.

EHS student Dustin True talks with Nathan Herries about the rocket he built on Saturday.

EHS student Dustin True talks with Nathan Herries about the rocket he built on Saturday.

— The last thing members of the Eudora High School Aerospace Alliance want to see is months of planning turn into flying scrambled eggs.

In Aerospace Alliance, informally known as Rocket Club, eight students attempt to build a rocket worthy of a national competition: the Team America Rocketry Challenge on May 19 in Virginia.

At the challenge, 100 teams compete for $60,000 in scholarships.

Before getting to the launch pad, students must go through an application and interview process to be admitted to the club. Under the supervision of club sponsor Russ Ringer, an EHS chemistry and physical science teacher, the accepted students then create, design and test-fly a rocket.

Member Kayci Vickers, an EHS junior, said there were certain requirements the rockets have to meet to qualify for the national competition.

The rockets are about 5 feet tall and powered by an engine. Each team may enter one rocket for the Team America challenge.

Because building the rockets is costly, EHS students use a computer program to design them. They may go through two or three drafts before settling on the final design.

The rocket must be able to fly into the air at least 850 feet for 45 seconds for the Team America challenge. EHS senior Mason McCurdy said the target altitude is about as high as a nine-story building.

It also carries a raw egg in the nosecone that, if cracked, will disqualify the rocket. If the rocket meets all of these qualifications, it is still not guaranteed to be in the national competition because only the top 100 scores are accepted to the finals.

"Last year, our record was 651 feet. We made it to 850 feet once, but it blew up in the air, which disqualifies it," said Whitney Box, EHS junior.

McCurdy listed several other things that can go wrong, such as overcast weather, wind or a malfunctioning engine.

The club plans to put on its qualifying shoot-off in early April, Box said. During the shoot-off, a National Association of Rocketry representative will be on site, inspecting the rocket and making sure it meets the qualifications. The deadline to qualify for the Team America challenge finals is Monday.

If the club does qualify for the event, it plans to raise money for its trip to Virginia, McCurdy said.

The club shared its expertise with Lawrence-area students in third through ninth grades on Saturday during a workshop on rocket building. The students learned how to build and launch their own rockets and were educated on the five safety rules of rocket launching. One of these rules caused a delay in the rocket-launching on Saturday - wind speeds of less than 20 mph are required for a launch. Despite the blustery day, students who attended the workshop were able to see their rockets lift off.

Of the 23 students who attended the workshop, three were considered intermediate, meaning that they have had previous rocket-building experience. Ian Palmer, an EHS freshman who attended the workshop, said he had been building rockets since he was 6 years old and plans to join Aerospace Alliance next year.

Club members shared their advice on rocket building at the workshop.

"Make sure you read the directions at least three times," Box said. "If you miss anything, that can cause something really bad to happen to your rocket."

- Sasha Lund is a member of Angle, the Journal-World's student advisory board.

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