Up, Up, and . . .

Rocketry Team concludes months of hard work with flight launch

Ten students have spent almost every Tuesday evening since December meeting in The Innovation Lab to learn everything they could about designing and building model rockets as well as the very complicated rules and specifications of the Team American Rocketry Challenge (TARC). Last Saturday, they took their rockets to The Plains for their first and only official launch (the deadline for qualifying launches was Monday). Here’s freshman Jennifer C.’s report on the experience:

When, during Morning Meeting that Wednesday morning, Dr. Evans announced the possibility of a Team American Rocketry Challenge (TARC) team, I was apprehensive. I wanted to join, but my most successful previous attempt at engineering had been a hydraulic arm in 7th grade. (I stepped on one of the tubes, breaking it 30 minutes before presenting it.) Yet, against my better judgment, I signed up. And it was great.
They say you’re at your worst during high school, and if that’s true, the people on this team are probably going to collapse with a singularity of skills at some point. Sylvia Y. ’19 is a novelist, talented artist, calculus student, and now rocket scientist. Kenzie G. ’20 is running her own online business, and juniors Nicole C. and Calissa M., if the need were to arise, could probably build a functioning clothes dryer out of duct tape. Betsy A. ’21 managed to balance both being on the rocketry team and being class president. Annie Z. ’19 kept everything running despite all the adversity (there was a lot). Ella B. ’19 learned to use OpenRocket in 20 minutes, a model rocket simulator software used to design and simulate flight before building anything. (I was there and it was like watching someone fight a tornado and win). Nell N. ’20 and Eunice Y. ’21 mastered everything there was to learn. I sanded things.

Though we didn’t have much time, owing to the fact that we only started meeting in December, Nicole and Sylvia both managed to design rockets and render them in SolidWorks, the 3D CAD design software, so that they could be made on our big 3D printer. Weather not conducive to flying things (snow, rain, fog, you name it) kept us from testing the two rockets, which were eventually named Nicalissa and Eggcracker 2.0, ahead of last Saturday’s official TARC-qualifying rocket launch, but off we went nonetheless.

We arrived at Great Meadow in The Plains full of hope and loaded down with all the tools and supplies we thought we might possibly need, but not, as it turned out, some of the specific things we actually did need (like the eggs that had to be inside the rocket and survive the flight). The General Store across the road was happy to have our business.

Over the next three hours, we made it through six (I think) broken eggs, several feet of duct tape, one missing engine mount (and a partridge in a pear tree), but everything eventually worked out. Both rockets flew very near the target height of 800 feet and the first also was right close to the prescribed flight time seconds. But Eggcracker 2.0 lived up to her name and both eggs broke. The second rocket’s parachute failed to open and poor Nicalissa crashed to earth nose first, breaking more than the eggs in the process.

So, in the end, we did not qualify for the national competition that will be held in May, but we still had fun and learned a lot. Wait ’til next year!
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.