Chantilly High School Academy engineering students have joined more than 2,000 other high school and junior high school students in registering for the Aerospace Industries Association's Team America Rocketry Challenge — making it the largest model rocket contest ever held in the U.S.
The contest is the first national rocket competition for high school teams and is sponsored by the AIA and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR).
AIA President and CEO John W. Douglass said that the contest would be a golden opportunity for colleges to recruit high school students for aerospace engineering studies. "Some of the sharpest and most creative young minds will be taking part in this contest," he said. "The next generation of aerospace engineers — the ones who will develop spacecraft with advanced chemical propulsion and plasma solar sail technologies — will be cutting their teeth on these model rockets."
Chantilly Academy Engineering students are excited at the prospect of participating in the rocketry competition. Adam Wheeler, a senior from W.T. Woodson, says, "I've always loved rockets, and before I knew it, I was competing."
Chris Snell, a Chantilly High senior, said, "I enjoy the problem-solving and engineering aspects of the project."
Bill Anderson, a Westfield High senior, said, "I've always enjoyed rockets since I was a little kid and I think it would look good on a college application."
High school teams across the country are in the process of designing, building and flying model rockets that carry two raw eggs to 1,500 feet. Teams have until March 9, 2003, to conduct official qualifying flights. The top 100 teams will meet on May 10, 2003, at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va., in a national fly-off. The winning teams will share a prize pool of $59,000. NASA has added additional prizes including a chance for students to build an advanced rocket and the opportunity for teachers to attend an advanced NASA rocketry workshop, meet with NASA engineers, and tour the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Guests at the finals include NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, and NASA engineer and author Homer Hickam. Jay Apt, a NASA astronaut who flew four times as a mission specialist on the space shuttle, has agreed to be one of the two range safety officers for the competition.
Said Chantilly Academy Engineering teacher Marty Rothwell: "We are always looking for ways to make the engineering experiences an exciting challenge for our students. Along with the Academy's NASA Robotics competition, this allows them to take the engineering principles they learn in class and apply them to real life. They also get to meet other students interested in engineering, and make contacts with engineering firms. This competition does just that and our students also have the opportunity to win generous scholarships for college."