Blasting Off

BROADALBIN – A team from Broadalbin-Perth High School is one of 100 in the country given permission to launch in the Team America Rocketry Challenge national fly-off Saturday.

The Neon Icon team members are seniors Tyese Frasier, Evan Hagadorn, Hunter Martin, Francesco Mastrocinque, Devin Page and Tim Zukas.

To qualify in the competition, the students had to fly a rocket containing two raw eggs to an altitude of 825 feet, and return both eggs intact to the ground in 48 seconds. Scores were calculated based on how close the rocket’s flight came to the target altitude and time, with zero being a perfect score.

Mastrocinque said they had three attempts to qualify for nationals, but during the national competition the team has only one chance to obtain the perfect flight.

“The pressure is on, but we are pretty excited,” he said with a laugh. “We nailed our first try and we’ve been just improving from there.”

Approximately 800 teams from 48 states attempted to qualify for the TARC national fly-off, including eight teams from Broadalbin-Perth’s engineering classes and afterschool Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Club.

He said during qualifiers the team was able to make the competition with a score of six, and the team has made a number of modifications to get a better score during the national competition.

Some of those changes include modifying the fins and improving aerodynamics, said B-P math and engineering teacher Billy Eipp.

During the national fly-off Saturday at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va., the B-P team will compete for a portion of $60,000 worth of prizes and scholarships that will be awarded to the top 10 teams.

In addition, NASA invites top teams to participate in its Student Launch Initiative, an advanced rocketry program. Members of the Aerospace Industries Association, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, have sponsored additional prizes, such as scholarship money and a trip to an international air show.

The Northville Rotary Club is sponsoring Broadalbin-Perth’s TARC qualifying team.

Rotary president and former Northville High School principal Janet Meuwissen said she has been impressed by what the rocketry team has accomplished

She said the club decided to sponsor the B-P rocketry teams along with a team in Northville because of the importance of project-based learning activities and STEM programs.

“This is the first time we sponsored a rocket,” Meuwissen said. “Having been in education for my career, I’ve noticed the change to project-based learning. This is a productive and engaging way for the students to learn.”

“It’s something different,” said Martin about why he became interested in the rocket competition. “It allows us to try new things to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

Eipp said while the launch itself is exciting for the students, they are also learning a number of lessons with it, including information about the four forces of flight and the application of quadratic and linear equations.

“We were looking for something the kids could do that was technical,” Eipp said. “There was a high learning curve, but since some of these kids went through it once last year they were ahead of the curve this time around.”

The team launched two rockets for the Board of Education on Monday evening to show them what they have been working on, although they used bigger model rocket engines for a more exciting visual experience, team members said.

The rockets are made with a variety of materials, including plastic, and obtain flight through dry model rocket engines, which vary in size and are ignited by a car battery. The size of the engine plays a factor in the amount of force and height each of the rockets will reach, Eipp said.

District Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said he will travel with the team to attend the competition and represent the district.

“The hard work of the kids and the advisors is great,” Tomlinson said. “[Some of] these kids are athletes and taking advanced academic programs, so for them to commit to this after school and qualify for the national competition is something I’m very proud of.”

“Those kids are having fun,” Board President Edward Szumowski said after the STEM students’ presentations. “That kind of program is exactly what I had in mind.”

The team is seeking additional financial support to help pay for travel and accommodations in Virginia. Any community member interested in making a donation can send a check payable to the Broadalbin-Perth STEM Club to B-P High School, 100 Bridge St., Broadalbin, NY 12025.