Immaculate Conception students have a blast at rocket launch

by PATRICK J. BUECHI
Tue, Dec 2nd 2014 04:10 pm

Immaculate Conception School in East Aurora swept the 2014 Moog Regional Rocketry Challenge taking home trophies for the top three places. The competition pitted 12 teams against each other for a spot at the the Team America Rocketry Challenge national launch in Washington.

Five teams from IC met on Oct. 26 at East Aurora High School to compete against seven high school teams, each with a handcrafted cardboard rocket measuring about two feet, and housing a parachute, altimeter and a payload of one raw egg. Teams were scored on height, descent time and the condition of the payload when landing. All rockets should reach 800 feet and spend exactly 46 seconds in the air. Teams take on penalty points for each foot or second they are over or under. It's a competition of precision, not power.

First place went to Team Matrix, comprised of five girls. Team XLR8, a mixed team of six junior high students, took second place. And the all-girl High Flying Rockettes received third place. These teams won trophies and motors for future competitions.

The all boys team known as the Igniters faced some technical issues. Their altimeter was missing. They missed several launches due to faulty igniters (the charge that launches the rocket, not the students.)

When their rocket finally got airborne, it rose 834 feet. The team quickly realized that by adding weight in the form of washers or clay, they could hit the required 800 feet without going over.

"You have to be very precise on everything," said Sam Mickel, 13. "A single gram could completely ruin your rocket."

Once the team members are confident, they can receive a perfect score of zero. The team announces they want to make a qualifying flight for a national launch in Washington, D.C. Due to high winds, the Immaculate Conception teams decided not to call a qualifying flight. They have until March 2015 to submit their data.
Not only did the High Flying Rockettes learn about physics of propulsion and aerodynamics during the development and construction of their rocket, the girls also developed problem-solving skills and a sense of teamwork.

Abigail Jusiak, 14, took part after hearing great things about the program from older students who had taken part in the challenge last year and qualified to go to Washington.

"I thought I could learn a lot about rockets. It was something exciting for me," she said. "I learned a lot about the parts of a rocket and how it works, and the different ways you can make it go higher or change the time, or how to improve your launch."

Kennedy Horning joined the team with an interest in mechanical engineering.

"I learned how to achieve what you want to achieve while working with other people," she said.

Perhaps the most important lesson was learned by the Igniters after three failed launches. "Don't panic."

"You have to stay calm," Mickel said. "You can't go and make it worse. You have to try and be resourceful with what you have."

The Team America Rocketry Challenge or TARC, is in its 13th year of inspiring and attracting the next generation of engineers and technicians to join the aerospace industry. Immaculate Conception School incorporates the challenge into its STREAM program, which focuses on science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics. The students use those skills to create a device that will succeed at it's given task. In this case, fly.   

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