Students from three Iowa high schools are among 100 teams nationwide competing in this month’s American Rocketry Challenge. It’s the Aerospace Industry Association’s flagship program, designed to encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Jayce Abens is one of six members on the team from Webster City High School which will compete in the finals in Dayton, Ohio.
“We compete to fly to a specific altitude and flight time, which they give us at the beginning of the season,” Abens says. “This year, we’re flying to 800 feet and 40 to 43 seconds.”
Each rocket is carrying fragile cargo. “We carry one egg as a payload,” he says. “It can’t be broken at all, otherwise, you’re disqualified.”
After many months of test launches, the practice paid off as the team’s qualifying numbers were exceptional.
“This year, we qualified with a score of 15 off of three qualifying flights,” Abens says. “We get a point per foot off of our altitude and four points per second out of the time range. We were right on time and just a few feet off for each flight.”
The finals are ordinarily held in Washington, D.C., but due to the pandemic, they’re being held in ten different cities this year between June 11th and 20th.
Teams from Maharishi High School in Fairfield and Cedar Falls High School will compete in the challenge in Brighton, Wisconsin. Webster City and Maharishi were both in the 2019 national finals as well, while the team from Maharishi is all-girls.
In addition to competing for the title of national champion, teams are also competing for $100,000 in prizes.
(Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City contributed to this report.)