WashCo students head to national rocketry competition May 14
Two student teams from Washington County schools will soon be headed to the May 14 American Rocketry Challenge National Finals.
The Oregon Episcopal School Aerospace Team, which won the national finals in 2021, is returning this year to defend its title.
Stoller Middle School's Portland Rocketry Team, which ranked 20th in last year's nationals, will also be competing.
To qualify, each student team had to design, build and launch a model rocket — up to a certain weight — that could safely carry two raw eggs to an altitude of 835 feet in a flight between 41 to 44 seconds. The requirements for nationals will be slightly modified.
OES team leaders Kara Gaiser and Zack Weinstein said it was their team's dream to make it to nationals, but last year wasn't all they expected. The main rocketry competition was canceled because of the pandemic, so they competed at a regional site in Pasco, Washington. There, they won with a record-breaking score of 7.7 points, Gaiser said.
This year, it'll be even better because their team and advisor, Robin O'Hara, are headed to a site near Washington, D.C., alongside 100 other teams from across the country for the first time since 2019.
Teams are competing for the title of national champion and an all-expense paid trip to London for the international finals. Additionally, the top 25 teams also automatically receive invitations to NASA's Student Launch workshop.
The OES leaders said the team's members always have great ideas, but this year and last, everything finally came together — even though the team still finished some work last-minute and had a lot of late nights.
"A lot of us are seniors, so this year especially, it's been kind of chaotic," Gaiser said. "Majority of us were dealing with college applications."
They've all been working on time management for the finals, the co-leaders said.
Gaiser said their team of 10 members is comparatively small, but it's still a challenge to make sure all members are on the same level and getting the support they need.
The OES Aerospace Team even has members from Thailand, China and Spain, who usually live in the school's on-site dorms. When school was online last year, the students had to join the team from overseas.
The Portland Rocketry Team's six members between grades 7 and 11 come from Stoller, Beaverton High School, Lincoln High School and Sunset High School. The team is advised by Connor Nelson.
Team co-captains Matthew Lei and Nividh Singh said the competition teaches their team new things every year, and they encouraged other students to find a local team to join.
"Aerospace is a huge field, and it's growing exponentially," Lei and Singh said in a press release. "You can do work on the shuttle, the rocket, a rover, a satellite and much more. … Follow your passions, wherever that might lead you!"
Next year, Gaiser will be going to college for mechanical engineering, and Weinstein is headed to work for a company that makes drones during his gap year. After that, he'll probably go for mechanical engineering, too.
"This competition is obviously very centered around aerospace around rocketry," Weinstein said, "but I think actually what it taught me and what I appreciated about it is much broader than that."
Being on the team has taught Weinstein a lot about engineering, he said. The competition has challenged the team to think in different ways with each new rocket requirement.
The members are excited for May 14.
Even before May, the OES team started shipping its supplies to The Plains.
"(We) are very excited to actually go and meet all of the other teams that that worked hard to get to nationals as well," Weinstein said. "And to actually go to Virginia and do that is an experience we've all looked forward to."
The American Rocketry Challenge is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The 2022 competition has included over 4,000 middle and high schoolers from 724 teams in 41 states.
OES and Stoller are the only teams from Oregon to participate this year.
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