Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Team America Rocketry Challenge – part 3

(scroll down for parts 1 and 2, the darned links aren't working right)

I’m going to talk a little more about the teams. Each team consisted of high school students and a teacher, and home schooled students were allowed to participate with the approval of local school authorities. There were entries from every state and one from an American school overseas (APO address). Over 9000 students were participants. The teachers were there for adult supervision. The students were required to do the actual design and construction work, and to fly the rockets themselves. Some teams were only a few students, while other teams comprised a whole class. Some schools entered more than one team. Looking at the team photos, you’ll notice a fair number of young ladies involved, including a few all-female teams.

Each team received sophisticated rocket design and simulation software so that they could build and fly ‘virtual’ rockets before starting construction. Teams were not required to use the software, but I think the benefits far outweighed the time spent learning to use it well.

The team photos (see part 2) were taken at the Finals, held in Virginia in May. Many teams couldn’t afford to send the entire team, but I thought it interesting to see that the teams from small towns often had banners or shirts listing their sponsors and local businesses who donated money to help them meet expenses for the contest. For some, it looked like everyone on ‘Main Street, USA’ chipped in!

An unofficial member of many teams were the mentors, who were experienced rocketeers volunteering time to help. Few students and teachers had experience building and flying rockets, so the teams were encouraged to contact their closest rocket clubs for assistance.

And what is a contest without prizes, eh? From the AIA site:

A grand prize pool of $59,000 in cash and savings bonds was shared by the top five teams. In addition, the top ten teams will compete for three $2500 grants to design, build and launch an advanced rocket with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Each of the top 25 teams is being invited to send one of their teachers to an advanced NASA rocketry workshop.

This is real rocket science!
- to be continued –