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April 25, 2006 > Newark team qualifies for world's largest rocket contest

Newark team qualifies for world's largest rocket contest

by Elie Wasser

Seven students from Newark Memorial High School qualified to compete in the national finals of the prestigious Team America Rocketry Challenge, the world's largest model rocket contest.

Nearly 10,000 students in 678 teams attempted to meet the rigorous requirements of the contest, but only the top scoring 100 high school and middle school teams qualified to compete in the national finals Great Meadows near Manassas, Va.

Student team members include: team captain Michael Martin, Sunshine Falck, Jenna Farrington, Shaun Hennings, Andrew MacKenzie, Kristina Moseley, and Tyler Pinomaki. Michael Martin said he was looking forward to the team's trip to Great Meadow, in The Plains, Virginia, for the May 20th national fly-off and hopes that his team will finish in first place. The most difficult problem to overcome, he said, rebuilding the rocket after a preliminary crash and getting the rocket's mass correct to achieve the specific height requirement. Jenna Farrington said that the hardest part of the competition has been, "getting over my fear of power tools." With only guidance from their teacher, the students are completely responsible for the design and construction of their rocket.

The contest requires that students design, build and launch a rocket that will safely carry a single raw egg to an altitude of 800 feet. There is also a time requirement of 45 seconds. This year's team qualified with a successful launch to 791 feet and a flight time of 45.67 seconds. The top 10 teams will share a prize pool of $60,000 in savings bonds and cash.

This is an excellent opportunity for students to learn hands-on lessons in aerodynamics in a non-classroom setting. Participants apply concepts of physics like computing trajectory and eliminating drag to their models and see the results immediately. This group of students have done a remarkable job this year. While most of these students are new to model rocketry, they have beautifully applied classroom knowledge to solving a real-world problem.

The project had the teams building rockets in a manner not too far off from professionals. The contest promotes teamwork, delegation of tasks and group decision-making. Upon being asked if all the effort put forth has been worth it, high school senior Shaun Hennings said, "The hard work has been worth it when you are outside watching your own rocket fly."

The ambitious undertaking has costs, and the team is looking for sponsors to help defray the cost of hotel and travel to the Washington, DC area. If you are interested in providing financial assistance to Newark Memorial's rocketry team, please contact teacher Elie Wasser at (510) 818-4396 or

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