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May 8, 2018 > Blast off to D.C.! Newark Memorial competes in Rocketry Challenge

Blast off to D.C.! Newark Memorial competes in Rocketry Challenge

By Robbie Finley

A team of Newark Memorial High School?s (NMHS) brightest students are headed to the nation?s capital to once again compete against 101 other schools in the 2018 Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) Saturday, May 12.

It is as awesome as it sounds: teams of students from around the country will descend upon Washington, D.C., with single-stage rockets of their own design and two raw eggs. Each team must successfully launch their rockets and have them reach an altitude of either 775 or 825 feet, dependent upon a coin toss on the day of the challenge. Each launch is evaluated by flight altitude and duration, as well as its ability to protect its eggy payload within the allotted 41-43 second timeframe after liftoff. Rockets are made of various lightweight materials, with commercially-made rocket motors. Teams must persevere over not only each other, but potential structural or design flaws and a number of other potential complications. ?Communication failures, minor disputes, funding limitations, time constraints, etc. add to the challenge of rocketry,? said Ayush Jain, NMHS Rocketry Club?s co-president. ?But we always push through, and it is all more than worth it!? he added. This complex challenge exposes the students to engineering, aerodynamics, meteorology and other STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] and STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics] disciplines.

The students will pack up and head out for a busy week of travel, test launches, the Rocketry Challenge itself, sightseeing, and, of course, some studying. The day of TARC will be quite long, with each of the 102 teams launching at designated points throughout the day. Prizes are varied and significant: the winning team moves on to the International Rocketry Challenge in London to square off against three winning teams from challenges in the UK, France, and Japan. The top 10 teams share $100,000 in scholarships and prizes, and the top 25 teams are invited to submit proposals to join NASA?s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Student Launch Initiative, a highly competitive program that gives teams exposure to research and development with the Space Launch System.

Newark Memorial?s Team Shmee (officially, Team 8) couldn?t be any readier for the challenge. Though Newark Memorial?s rocketry teams have made the journey to TARC a number of times in the past, this year was drastically different for the club, as their longtime advisor left at the end of the last school year. Such a seismic shift in the club?s dynamic forced its members to step up and take on new responsibilities. ?It?s been a seamless transition,? said Matt Hacker, the club?s new advisor. He added, ?They are a group of friends, good camaraderie.? Ten of the club?s 35 members will be making the trek to TARC this year.

?Most of the year was us just making it work, so we?re pretty proud of that,? Jain said. This year, the Rocketry Club members had to lobby the school district for the club?s budget and other logistical issues that arose throughout the school year, such as finding a new home for their workshop. ?One thing I?ve gotten out of the club is that communication is key. You can?t always have it your way,? said Arianna Reyes, the club?s other co-president. She added, ?We make it work.?

Team Shmee is almost entirely comprised of seniors, with one freshman in the mix. If their heart and determination are any indication, there?s little doubt that Team Shmee will find itself in the top rankings at TARC. ?To paraphrase the words of our principal Grace Huerta, the goal of everything we do is to leave whatever we touch in better condition than before. The aim is always to improve, to do better and be better,? Jain said.

The team is a very tight-knit group of dynamic individuals. ?You meet so many people and it forms like a family,? said Kaeleigh Taylor, the team?s freshman. The benefits of rocketry go beyond critical thinking derived from the disciplines involved in creating and launching a rocket. ?You learn a lot in Rocketry that is transferrable to many fields,? said Team Shmee Captain Aaron Valadez, continuing, ?There?s a creative side to explore. This club helps you express that.? Team member Diego Carrillo added, ?It?s a team effort, you all come together and work hard; you need to know your limits.? Their dedication is demonstrated by weekly launches at the Ohlone campus in Newark every Saturday.

Kicked off in 2002 as a one-off event to celebrate the centennial of flight, the Team America Rocketry Challenge has persisted due to its immense popularity and has been recognized by NASA [National Aeronautics & Space Administration], the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), senators and astronauts alike. Newark Memorial?s Rocketry Club is grateful for the support they have received from teachers, companies, parents, and mentors of the Newark community in their journey to TARC. ?Without the support of those around us, we would never be even close to where we are today,? they said.

To learn more about the Team America Rocketry Challenge, visit

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