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What Would Isaac Do?

( 06/06/2019 ) Written by: Anne Torgler

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion can be well characterized by a rocket.  When fuel is expended out the back, it propels the rocket forward … action and reaction.

What goes into making a rocket?  At the bare minimum, it’s a casing, propellant and a directional nozzle. But why go with the bare minimum when you’re challenged to a head-to-head design and execution competition?

In May, LORD Corporation was a sponsor of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Team America Rocketry Challenge. In this STEM-related initiative, more than 800 teams from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands competed in the 2019 edition of the contest.  And none of the competitors even considered going “bare bones”.

The Top 101 teams competed for a total of $100,000 in prize money and scholarships at the national finals—an all-day event held May 18 at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C.

Design Specifications

Each team custom-designed, built and launched a rocket carrying three raw eggs to an altitude of 856 feet. Points were assigned with the goal of getting closest to the mark; the fewer the points the better. An additional challenge was to return the payload to the ground within 43-46 seconds, and within the prescribed touch-down site, without breaking the eggs.

This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing, these eggs symbolized the three astronauts who were part of the Apollo 11 mission.  

To make matters even more challenging, the size and weight of the individual eggs had to be incorporated into the rocket’s design, much like the astronaut’s weight was integrated into the Saturn V rocket in 1969.  

Many of the teams featured uniforms that recognized the 50th anniversary—from astronaut suit t-shirts to 60’s era NASA “missile men” with black-rimmed glasses, pocket-protectors and slide rules.

Anti-Vibration Control  

Encasing, packing, and protecting the three eggs within the rocket was a major consideration of the design. Each of the eggs had to weigh between 55 and 61 grams and be no more than 45 millimeters in diameter. This is usually a Grade A large; however, despite the moniker, not all Grade A eggs are the same.

And the “astronauts” were provided at the competition, meaning that the teams didn’t know the final size and shape of the eggs until they were on site. Flexibility was a “must.”

While not able to use mounts and other anti-vibration technology provided by us, students used a variety of materials from tissue paper to bubble wrap with the intent of cushioning the eggs and preventing any breakage or miniscule cracks in the shells.  Any visible cracks would automatically result in disqualification.

The eggs and an altimeter had to be enclosed in a capsule designed to separate from the rocket with two or more parachutes of the same shape and within two inches of the same diameter. The rocket itself could have a gross liftoff weight of no more than 650 grams, a minimum length of at least 650 millimeters, and had to be powered by one or more commercial rocket motor of class “F” or smaller with no more than 80 N-sec of total impulse.

Which Team Won?

The Rocket Team from Madison West High School (Madison, Wisconsin) took home the top prize at the world’s largest student rocketry competition with a score of only 10.  All members of the team are 15 years old or younger.

The students from Madison West will now represent the United States at the International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris International Air Show in June, facing off against teams from France, the UK, and Japan.  

The $100,000 prize pool will be split among the Top 10 teams. Madison West will receive the top prize of $20,000.  In addition, the top twenty-five finishers receive an invitation to participate in NASA’s Student Launch Initiative to continue their exploration of rocketry with high-powered rockets and challenging mission parameters.

WWID? It’s only speculation, but chances are good that Isaac would have been part of the Rocketry Team at his high school.

 

 

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