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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

Three rocketry teams headed to nationals

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Apr 19, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo The four senior boys seen here constitute one of Maharishi School’s three rocketry teams that will compete in the Team America Rocketry Challenge May 12 outside Washington, D.C. The students are, from left, Daniel Zhu, Kai Vessey, Karthik Vempati and Li Wang.

Maharishi School’s rocketry teams continue to soar high above the competition.

The school learned earlier this month that all three of its teams advanced to the finals of the world’s largest rocketry contest

The finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge will be May 12 just outside Washington, D.C. It is the aerospace and defense industry’s flagship program designed to encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

About 800 teams registered for the competition, and 100 advanced to the finals. The three teams from Maharishi School were the only teams from Iowa to make the cut. Last year, a team from Maharishi School earned fourth place at nationals, earning a $10,000 cash prize. This year’s grand prize is $100,000.

 

Eighth-graders

One of the school’s three teams consists of eighth-grade girls Elan Jenkins, Adel Cynolter and Drishikaa Thimmaiah. It’s their first year in the program. Thimmaiah prodded the other two to go out, and they agreed. Jenkins wasn’t sure it was going to be fun, but after spending a few months making rockets with her teammates, it’s one of her favorite things to do. Cynolter said it was fun to learn about “physics, aerodynamics and all that jazz.”

The girls explained that, to go to nationals, they had to submit the results of their qualifying flights while being observed by a mentor. Their task was to build a rocket that would fly to an altitude of 800 feet and return to earth in 41-43 seconds with no cracks. And to top it off, the rocket had to carry two eggs. If the eggs broke, the flight was disqualified.

Thimmaiah explained that each of the three girls designed a rocket on a computer program and built it in real life. They tested the rockets to see whose design worked the best. In this case, the group selected Jenkins’s design because it performed so well on a practice run. It flew to 802 feet and spent exactly 42 seconds in the air.

The team has been busy making backup rockets for the finals in case their primary rocket breaks. Maharishi School’s team that placed fourth at nationals last year used a backup rocket in the competition because its primary rocket broke during testing.

“If the motor in your rocket explodes, you get to launch a second rocket, so you might as well bring one,” Cynolter said.

Team advisor Rick Rudloff said one way the teams have improved over last year is that they have many more parachutes, which they can alter by cutting small holes into to get the hang-time just right.

An additional challenge the group will face at nationals is having to add or subtract weight from its rocket. After asking the competitors to fly their rockets as close to 800 feet as possible, the organizers will then ask them to fly it to either 775 feet or 825 feet. The girls have figured out how much weight to add to the rocket’s nose cone to get the desired altitude.

 

Senior boys

Another of the three teams going to D.C. consists of senior boys Daniel Zhu, Kai Vessey, Karthik Vempati and Li “Frank” Wang. Those four are also members of the eight-person team that competed in a separate rocketry competition for NASA.

Twenty-four high school teams were invited to the competition April 4-8 in Huntsville, Alabama. The other four members of that team were Lulu Miller, Yenet Deribe, Deepika Vempati and Shristi Sharma. Miles Falk also consulted on the team.

The NASA competition required the students to create a rocket that could fly to 1 mile in the air, while carrying a science experiment. Maharishi School’s group designed an experiment to measure the coefficient of drag, and how it was the same between a full-size rocket and a smaller replica.

The team received second place for its educational engagement throughout the year. Karthik said the team educated younger kids about rocketry, and built displays to show their accomplishments during farmers’ markets and during Fairfield First Fridays.

Each person in the group is charge of a different aspect of the rocket. Karthik and Zhu were responsible for construction and going through the safety check list. Vessey worked on the electronic equipment such as the altimeter. Li altered the rocket’s design from 6 inches in diameter to 4 inches.

Zhu said the most challenging part of being in a big group is ensuring everyone is pulling their weight. Li said the most satisfying part was seeing the rocket’s successful test launch at Indianola, after putting hours and hours of effort into the project.

Vessey said the exposure to wiring a rocket has led him to pursue a career in either mechanical or electrical engineering. Karthik said he has enjoyed the experience so much that he plans to compete in the NASA student launch next year as a college student.

The third team going to nationals consists of Orion Riley, Bella Unger, Bhavani Allison and Helam Holbert.

 

 

Comments (1)
Posted by: Glen Joseph Peiffer | Apr 21, 2018 00:29
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