CANTON — In two weeks, two groups of students from Creekview High School will join 98 other teams from across the country for a national rocket championship, following a world title win for the school last summer.
Two of Creekview’s aeronautics club teams have qualified for the Team America Rocketry Challenge finals, which will see 100 teams gather for the fly-off May 18 near Washington, D.C.. Creekview is the only school from Georgia to qualify this year.
This year’s qualifying has an extra challenge for contestants: teams must send three raw eggs hundreds of feet in the air to a target altitude and back without any cracks or scratches. Last year only two eggs were required. The 2019 challenge is to fly a rocket carrying three raw eggs in a capsule to an altitude of 856 feet and return it to the ground with the eggs intact within 43-46 seconds.
The club originally had three teams create rockets for qualifying; since each school is allowed to send only two teams as of this year, the third team consolidated into the others so all 19 students could be part of the national competition. The top two teams, Team 1 and Team 3, earned the highest qualifying scores in the team’s 11-year history, said their coach, teacher Tim Smyrl.
Senior Aiden McChesney, one of the captains of Team 1, and a member of last year’s team that won the world championship, said that the extra egg and mandatory weight requirements were challenging at first for his team.
“When we first started building them, we had trouble getting where we needed to be. We had to find the right engines, that were really hard to find for a while because they were out of stock everywhere. But now that we’ve dialed everything in, I feel like we have a shot this year, “McChesney said. “I want to make a record and make sure nobody beats it. It’d be cool to go to the world championship twice.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and TARC is celebrating the occasion in the competition. There is a separate contest for students to recreate the Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket at the finals for a cash prize. Three eggs are required because the Apollo carried three astronauts, and the 856-foot target altitude is a nod to Neil Armstrong’s famous moon landing, which was at 8:56 p.m. Houston time.
“All the lunar missions carried three astronauts, so this year, we’re carrying three eggs, which is a pain because it’s heavy. There’s a weight limit to the rocket, so it tightens everything and requires more energy out of your motor,” Smyrl said.
At the finals, the rockets will have to repeat their performance from qualifying in an initial fly-off; the best teams from there will compete in a second fly-off with a change in target altitude by plus or minus 25 feet, decided by coin toss.
“It feels great to work alongside all my friends,” said junior Carter Burch, Team 3 captain. “I hope we do really well. I think we’ll have a good chance.”
TARC is held by Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry. Prizes include $100,000 in cash and scholarships split among the top 10 teams, plus $5,000 in prizes for special events, sponsored by AIA member companies. In addition Raytheon Co. sponsors a trip for the winning team to one of the major European air shows to compete in the International Rocketry Challenge. If one of the Creekview teams wins the TARC contest, they will compete in the IRC June 20-21 in France at the Paris International Air Show.