Press Release

Madison, AL Middle School Team to Compete Saturday in National Student Rocket Contest in Virginia

By SpaceRef Editor
May 21, 2004
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A team of seventh and eighth-graders from Discovery Middle School in Madison, Ala., will compete in the world’s largest model rocket contest Saturday, May 22, at Great Meadow Racetrack, The Plains, Va.

The Team America Rocketry Challenge, a national amateur rocket competition for high school and middle school students, is a partnership between NASA and Rocketry Challenge sponsors – the Aerospace Industries Association of America and the National Association of Rocketry.

The Discovery Middle School team is one of 100 teams – from a field of more than 600 middle and high school teams representing more than 7,000 students – scheduled to participate in Saturday’s competition.

Student teams were asked to design, build and test a model rocket that could reach an altitude as close to 1,250 feet as possible with a payload of two raw eggs, and then parachute the eggs back to the ground, unbroken. A contest-approved barometric altimeter must be flown inside the rocket to record the peak altitude of the rocket flight.

At the March 7 regional fly-off in Huntsville, the Discovery team’s rocket reached an almost-perfect altitude of 1,240 feet and returned its payload to Earth unbroken. The 100 teams closest to the specified altitude were invited to participate in the final Rocketry Challenge competition. 

“The students were really committed to the project, and I’m so proud of them,” said Robin Dauman, an enrichment specialist at Discovery Middle School. “Of the 12 Alabama teams to qualify, our students were closest to the altitude requirement, and the only state team that will be in the national competition.”

Dauman worked with 11 students who signed on to the project and committed to the fly-off trial. Six of those students will participate in the Virginia competition. The team consists of eighth-graders Arik Schwartz, Patrick Sanders, Cobb Brandon, Karthik Sola, Ajesh Khajinow, and seventh-grader Jonathan McCoy.

Charles Pierce, a NASA liquid propulsion engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., serves as the team’s advisor and mentor. He is president of the Huntsville Area Rocketry Association, which has supported regional rocketry teams participating in the Challenge by providing mentors and certifying results for Rocketry Challenge sponsors.

The 25 top-finishing teams in Saturday’s competition will become eligible to submit proposals to participate in the 2004-2005 NASA Student Launch Initiative, an educational activity designed to motivate students toward careers in science, math and engineering, while giving them a taste of practical, hands-on aerospace work.

The program, based at the Marshall Center and now in its fourth year, seeks to inspire students to design, build and launch reusable rockets and real science payloads.

Three of those top-25 teams will then be selected to partner with the Marshall Center and will receive a grant of up to $2,500 and a travel allowance for up to 10 student and faculty representatives. Included will be meals, lodging and transportation to and from the launch activities in Huntsville. The three teams will also be invited to attend Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

“Every mission that NASA accepts requires the sharpest of minds, the strength of purpose and the drive to take on new challenges,” said Jim Pruitt, manager of Marshall’s Education Programs Department.  “Young people like those involved in Team America Rocketry Challenge will be needed in NASA’s future missions.  Preparing our young people for the challenges ahead is important to fulfilling the Vision for Space Exploration, which calls for NASA to return humans to the Moon and lay the groundwork for exploration missions to Mars and beyond.”

For more information on NASA Student Launch Initiative visit:

For more information on NASA education programs visit:

For more information on Team America Rocketry Challenge visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.