Team rocketry taking off |

Team rocketry taking off

Cindy Ramunno
Peter Ferguson, Kyle Cureau and John McGee of Vail Christian High School.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, and the Aerospace Industries Association, or AIA, are sponsoring Team American Rocketry Challenge, a national competition in May in Gainesville, Va.

The competition provides students interested in aerodynamic engineering, applied physics and other rocketry-related sciences an opportunity to design, develop and launch a rocket system.

The team whose flight comes closest to exactly 1,500 feet in a safe and stable flight with all rocket stages operating – and returns two eggs, representing a human crew, undamaged – in a single attempt wins the competition. First prize is about $60,000 in prize money and scholarships, not to mention a foothold in the scientific community.

“We need to win (the state competition in February) first,” says Cureau.

Ferguson, Cureau and McGee say they have studied the fundamentals of advanced rocketry and have already designed a rocket that will overwhelm the competition.

“We’ve spent tons of time on getting the design perfect,” says Cureau. “Now we’re going through simulations and ordering parts.”

Getting the parts is not easy, however. In fact, it has proven to be a huge struggle.

“Tracking down custom-built parts is hard, but it’s all coming together well,” says Ferguson, adding that the trio has been keeping excellent financial records.

How many juniors in high school can say that they’ve studied aerodynamics and rocketry? Not many. With physics teacher Mindy Larson on their side, members of this team say they are ready to win.

Ferguson, who lives in Edwards, says is the structural architect on the team, having created the innovative “adjustable ski pole” in middle school. He says he has been interested in propellant fuels and pyrotechnics for around five years. He’s also an athlete, playing varsity basketball, football and track.

Cureau, another athlete from Edwards, won the Western Regional Science Fair in engineering as an eighth-grader, as well as designed the school’s Web site. In the seventh grade, he says he studied astronomy, researching rocketry extensively.

McGee, a Merit Scholar for the last three years, says he began experimenting with rockets in middle school, building multiple-stage rockets and designing custom models in the eighth grade. In 1998, the Eagle resident won the regional science fair, taking the county science fair two years later. He’s also an athlete and in student government.

Vail Christian High School has contributed money for these guys to proceed, but they can always use additional funds. Contributors will be kept up to date on all aspects of the projects, and well as receive a monthly pamphlet on the group’s accomplishments and plans, along with modifications to their methodology.

For more information, call Mindy Larson at 926-5682.

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