(Via Star Advertiser)
Damien Memorial School students took their rocket to the sky Sunday morning with the hopes that it would ascend high enough to qualify for a national tournament.
Damien’s Dem Guys rocketry club team comprising seven seniors — Angel Galvan, Phuong Nguyen, Joshua Schaefers, J.D. Manuel, Paolo Atienza, Bryan Lee and Darren Zhao — brought their 30-inch rocket to West Field area of Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe. It’s the first year the school has offered a rocketry club and elective class, the first in the state.
In order to qualify for the national Team America Rocketry Challenge, slated for May 10 at The Plains, Va., teams must be able to launch a 30-inch rocket carrying two eggs 825 feet in the air and return it to the ground safely within 48 to 50 seconds, said Jacob Hudson, Damien’s rocketry instructor and club adviser.
The rocket must descend on two parachutes with the eggs intact. The goal is to get a score of 0, Hudson said, because points are added on for every second and foot missed.
A team challenge official was on site to record the attempts.
On the first launch, winds drifted the rocket into shrubbery far from the launchpad. Manuel, who stayed back as his teammates went to recover the rocket, was concerned that it might have landed in a tree.
“(Hudson) always tells us, ‘The moment your rocket is on the launchpad, say goodbye. You may never see it again,'” Manuel said.
But when his teammates returned nearly an hour later with the rocket and eggs intact, the group decided to add small rocks inside the rocket to increase its mass. As a precaution, Hudson also moved the launchpad to prevent the rocket from getting lost again.
“We always double-check everything we do,” Galvan said. “We watch each other to make sure we don’t make any mistakes. And we’re always asking questions. ‘Did you do this? Did you do that?’ So that when it launches, we can prevent as much (trouble) as possible.”
Schaefers added that in between launches, the team can make minor adjustments in order to meet the requirements to qualify.
“If we change something on the spot and something goes wrong, it would really hurt,” Schaefers said.
BUT their adjustments to the rocket’s weight were an improvement as it shot up 819 feet in the air and came down within 44 seconds on its second try. The team removed one rock.
Cheers erupted when the time and altitude were announced on the third and final attempt: 47.99 seconds and an altitude of 828 feet, an estimated score of 3.16, according to Joshua’s calculations.
Hudson said he doesn’t know if the score is low enough to get into the finals — only the top 100 teams are accepted — but he was impressed with the last launch.
“They had a lot of luck with this last one,” Hudson said.
Hudson added that rocketry teams in Hawaii are at a “unique” disadvantage because it costs three times as much for rocket parts in Hawaii, and there is a lack of open fields.
“(Some schools on the mainland) can go and launch every day until they get it right,” he said. “They launch and launch until they reach a score of 1 or 0. … We don’t get to do that.”
It’s the team’s fourth launch session at the base, and Hudson said there have been only nine launches. The team will find out by Friday if they made it to the nationals. But even if the team doesn’t qualify, he said the experience encourages them to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and math.
“Aerospace engineering is (a large) employer in Hawaii, directly and indirectly,” Hudson said. “So as a result, we’ve got this initiative to help develop the workforce for that, and Damien, I think, is really taking the leap. If not, then instilling the interest in STEM and getting an interest in rockets. So it’s been a pleasure teaching that class.” STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.