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Students join world’s largest rocket-building competition

The+design+of+the+students+model+rocket+on+the+online+RockSim+simulator.+Photo+used+with+permission+from+Meadow+Shen.+
The design of the students’ model rocket on the online RockSim simulator. Photo used with permission from Meadow Shen.

What you need to know:

  • Seven students from Engineering and Aeronautics clubs are participating in the American Rocketry Challenge, the world’s largest rocket-building competition 
  • The final submission dates for their rocket and their marketing campaign, a filmed process and launch documentary, are on April 8 and 14 respectively. 
  • The qualified teams will then move on to national competitions and even international ones.

Seven students from Engineering and Aeronautics clubs are participating in the American Rocketry Challenge, the world’s largest rocket-building competition — with more than 5,000 applicants competing every year — that asks participants to design, build and launch rockets using engineering knowledge and skills. The final submission dates for their rocket and their marketing campaign, a filmed process and launch documentary, are on April 8 and 14 respectively. The qualified teams will then move on to national competitions and even international ones. 

The team formed after junior Meadow Shen discovered the competition’s website in early February and soon found members interested in participating from Engineering Club and Aeronautics Club. Many members found the topic, aerospace, intriguing as there aren’t many perceived opportunities for people to gain hands-on experience in the field. Gathering over breaks, tutorials and weekends, the team’s efforts coalesced to meet the competition deadline. 

The team’s current goal for the project is to have the rocket hit an 820-foot altitude in 43 to 46 seconds; thus they have to find new ways to build the rockets and optimize them. So far, the team has worked together to build or print 3D pieces that make up the main body of their first rocket and is working on an airbrake, which uses air pressure to adjust the acceleration of their rocket. Throughout the creation process, they have designed the prototype on rocket simulation software, bought or 3D printed the individual parts, assembled the rocket and are currently scheduling their trials at launch sites. 

“We’re all really dedicated to this project,” sophomore and team member Xiaoya Gao said. “We’re on a good pace because we’re all enjoying the competition, trying out things we usually don’t get to try.” 

A longstanding challenge has been finding a test launch location they could visit to launch the rocket, as most of the locations are very far away and the closest being a round trip of over three hours. With the large amount of time needed, scheduling and communication becomes ever-important with all members having to agree on a time to meet and transportation methods. 

“We were supposed to go test the rocket one weekend, but it got canceled,” said mathematics teacher and Engineering Club adviser Vivian Frazita.

Soon after the team installs its airbrakes, the first rocket will be completed, after which they hope to piece together a second rocket as a backup. 

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made,” said senior Vincent Chen, a participant of the American Rocketry Competition team and president of the Engineering Club.

I’m proud of the progress we’ve made.

— Vincent Chen, senior

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Emily Pedroza, Features Editor
(she/her) Emily Pedroza is a soup and writing enthusiast. When she’s not writing or studying, you’ll find her wrapped in blankets: reading, stalking her favorite poets on Twitter and nursing cups of herbal tea.

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