Thursday, April 9, 2009

Up, up and away!

Nope, no beautiful balloons here (please tell me I’m not the only person who gets that reference).

But there are rockets!

My son, along with the rest of his Team American Rocketry Challenge (TARC) team has spent the last 7 or so months designing and building a rocket that can launch an egg (nestled sideways in the body of the rocket) 750 feet in the air and return to ground within 45 seconds - without scrambling the egg.

Last weekend was the deadline for completing a qualified launch (one timed and verified by an official). Points are awarded thusly: 1 point for each foot above or below the 750 feet goal and 2 points for every second slower or faster than the 45 second goal. A scrambled egg automatically disqualifies the flight. Obviously, the goal is a number as close to 0 as possible. We spent a day at the Swan Falls launch site of the Tripoli Idaho Rocket Club (members of which launch high powered model rockets – making the kind my kids used to build look downright puny). Pretty scenery as a backdrop for the flights:

My son’s team set their rocket up on one of the launch pads and it failed to take off twice. Turns out it was nothing to do with the rocket – the person who set up the launch pad didn’t connect the pad to the launch controller’s station.

The next launch was successful:

Successful in that it took off and landed without breaking the egg. But something went wrong with the altimeter, which was a special kind that also had some fancy breaking mechanism. So the team then had to revamp its rocket so that it wouldn’t need to employ a breaking mechanism to keep from flying far beyond 750 feet. They got close, but not close enough to ask for a qualifying launch. The next weekend (the last weekend to qualify) the team went out and launched without all of the spectators. After a lot of adjustments, the rocket made 743 feet in 42 seconds, for a score of 24. Hopefully that’ll be good enough! If they’re in the top 100 teams (out of approximately 600), they’ll head to Virginia for the national competition – with the top team from that competition not only winning a large cash prize, but also a trip to Paris for the international competition.

Keep your fingers crossed!

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