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Students prep for rocketry competition

March 3, 2019

MEDFORD LAKES, N.J. (AP) — Young engineers at the Neeta School have just one week until liftoff.

At last Tuesday’s Rocketry Club meeting, seventh-graders Lilly Round, Morgan Diperna and Nataley Polan were painting their aircraft and attaching its fins. They were one of four teams spread out across a science classroom, working to turn 4-foot tubes into flight-ready rockets.

The first practice launch of competition season is next week, Morgan said.

“Honestly, it’s been a challenging process so far,” Lilly said. “So it teaches you to deal with a challenge.”

The Neeta students want to compete with their rockets against teams — most of them comprised of high-school students — from across the country this spring, but first, they must qualify. To qualify, a team’s rocket must reach a height of 856 feet, give or take a foot or two; every foot of difference between 856 feet and the rocket’s actual flight earns the team one point.

“It’s like golf,” club co-adviser Richard Heggan explained. “The fewer points you have, the better it is.”

A successful flight will take no less than 43 seconds and no more than 46 from launch to landing; for every second of difference, the team gets four more points. Heggan said each rocket also carries three raw hens’ eggs that need to land intact, among other criteria.

With every practice launch, one each Sunday until April 7, students will collect data and determine what worked, and what didn’t, and revise accordingly. When they feel ready to record their competition-qualifying scores, due April 8 to determine who goes to Washington D.C., they won’t be able to revise, although they can submit their best two scores out of three.

“We haven’t made it yet,” Heggan said of D.C. “Maybe this year.”

Eighth-graders Finn Haussman and Brian Ciotti have applied past experience to their latest rocket, since they didn’t qualify last year when the rocket didn’t fly high enough. Brian said they’ve been building this year on lessons from seventh grade about aerodynamics, engine function, computer-aided design, and 3D printing.

“We’re going to fix the engine so we know it can fire more,” he said. “And fix the parachute so we know it can slide out more easily.”

Heggan’s co-adviser, Jill Agin, said students in Rocketry Club get extra practice with data collection and analysis, physics and other concepts she and Heggan try to stress in their roles as sixth- to eighth-grade science teachers at Neeta.

The extracurricular learning opportunity drew Morgan to the program this year.

“I like engineering projects, so I thought this would be pretty cool to try out,” she said.

It didn’t disappoint. She and Nataley agreed that their club experiences have helped them in science class.

For others, like seventh-grader Robert Koeppl, some of Rocketry Club’s appeal lies in its social lessons as well as its science lessons. Robert said he enjoys collaborating with his friends and figuring out how to be an effective team.

“I think Rocketry Club is a great place to learn new things and have fun overall,” he said.





Information from: Burlington County Times (Willingboro, N.J.), http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com

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