Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Team America Rocketry Challenge – part 2

(part 1 here)

So how tough can it be to design a rocket? Like any other engineering project, it boils down to tradeoffs.

Think about a car for example; designing for lots of people room means a larger body which means a heavier vehicle which means a bigger motor which means less room for people which means…

For the rocket design, the only set dimension was the size and weight of the eggs. The teams would be provided with eggs that were weighed and measured to be within contest tolerances (and candled to make sure there were no unseen hairline cracks).

Other than that, the design was freeform. Each team was given a list of commercially available rocket motors that they could use for the flight. These motors ranged in size and power – the largest allowed motor was 256 times more powerful than the smallest! The teams had to come up with a combination of staged motors to meet the requirements. There were other considerations too, because some motors would require additional electronics to ignite the upper stage. Also, because of unforeseen circumstances, some motors were suddenly in very short supply, forcing some redesigns and additional ingenuity.

Not to mention half a hundred other factors that need to be accounted for.

These kids were up to it!

For some (hi-res) pictures of some of the teams, see here. In particular, look at the rockets they flew in the finals, and how they devised different solutions to the same problem.