San Luis students launching rocket entry

SAN LUIS, Ariz. (AP) – Five seventh-graders at San Luis Middle School are hoping to outdo the achievements of a year ago when the school sent a team to a national model rocketry competition.

The Team America Rocketry Challenge doesn’t take place until May, but the students are already designing, building and launching rockets in tests they hope will lead to a qualifying flight that lands them a berth in the 2013 competition.

Last May, a team from San Luis Middle School was among 100 teams from around the nation that made it to the competition in Virginia that was organized by the National Association of Rocketry and the Aerospace Industries Association.

Although the San Luis students were eliminated in the first round, their showing represented an improvement over the prior year when they failed to make the competition.

The 2013 competition will again be limited to the 100 teams that achieve the best qualifying flights while launching a raw egg to an altitude of 750 feet. The rocket must stay aloft 48-50 seconds with the aid of a 15-inch-diameter parachute that brings it to a gentle landing without breaking the egg.

To make the competition, the San Luis students must meet those standards in a qualifying flight.

“Beginning the second week of February, the official-qualifying tests begins, but the challenge has already started,” said Francisco Vasquez, a San Luis Middle School science teacher who supervises the students. “This year, the competition is harder because there are more requirements.”

The challenge is not lost on the students.

“The hardest thing is building the rocket,” said student Johnatan Contreras. “But I believe we will make a good showing in the competition.”

Lucia Arias said the contest forces the students to put to use some of the science and math concepts they have been studying in the classroom.

Vasquez said the purpose of the rocket competition, sponsored by NASA, is to encourage students to study toward future careers in science and technology.

This weekend, the San Luis students were scheduled to visit the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in Tempe to learn more about rocket launching.