Students from 16 local schools came together last Saturday to compete in the Moog Regional Rocketry Challenge.
This competition included two rocket launches for each team as well as some prizes at the end of the day.
But the Moog competition was more than just one day of rocket launches.
Over the past month and a half, competing schools have built rockets from scratch. This included designing, sketching and cutting rocket parts from wood, cardboard and plastic. Some teams even used 3D printing machines to make parts of their rockets. Once each piece was completed, students assembled their rockets.
There were many restrictions and rules that teens had to follow to make sure their rocket could qualify for competition.
This year, every rocket had to fly 800 feet into the air while carrying two raw eggs that could not break upon landing. The rocket also could not weigh more than 650 grams (22.9 oz.). Further, the rocket’s body had to be made of two separate tubes, one to hold the eggs and one to hold the motor. The rocket also had to take between 41 and 43 seconds to touch the ground after launching.
To make sure their rockets was properly constructed, students had to make an especially strong glue called epoxy, drill holes, and connect pieces of their rockets with pins.
The teens also had to attach parachutes, motors, and altimeters, which measured how high the rocket flew, among other important pieces.
When all of that was completed, students got to paint and decorate their rockets. At the competition, everything from Halloween rockets to galaxy rockets were seen.
Phuong Ngo, a sophomore who competed this year, said she likes building rockets for this competition because it is a great opportunity to learn about math and science.
"It brings something that seems so hard and makes it more approachable," Phuong said of rocket building. "It makes the dream of becoming a rocket scientist more approachable."
The day of the competition, which took place at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, started cold and windy, but every student was so excited that the weather did not matter. Once everyone was signed in and a group picture was taken, the launches started.
Five rockets were loaded onto launch pads at a time, but rockets were launched one at a time to avoid collisions.
Once in the air, rockets were supposed to go to maximum height and then separate into two pieces that stayed connected by a cord. The rocket then had to deploy its parachute. Many of the rockets made by local teens were able to do this.
Some, however, broke into two pieces because the ignition flame burnt through the cord connecting the rocket’s tubes. Other rockets never deployed their parachute and they plummeted to the ground much too quickly.
After the five rockets in one round launched and landed, groups went out into the surrounding field to retrieve their rockets. Meanwhile, the next groups loaded their rockets and prepared for launch.
After retrieving their rockets, teens went to Moog officials to be scored. The goal was to have a score as close to zero as possible. For every foot away from the 800 feet altitude goal, teams got one point. So if one team’s rocket reached a maximum altitude of 790 feet, they got 10 points added to their score. The same goes for time. For every second away from the 41- to 43-second goal, teams received one point.
Points were also added for broken eggs and rockets that break apart.
Once all of these points were added, teams got their scores for round one, which were displayed on a big score board.
Many rockets needed quick repairs after the first launch. Groups had to make more epoxy glue to secure rocket fins, fix parachutes and attach new motors.
After each group launched the first time, everyone had a quick lunch then went back into the field to launch again.
At this point, the weather started becoming problematic. The wind picked up and the rain clouds loomed menacingly.
To avoid cancelling launches, the second round went very quickly. Thankfully, every group was able to launch a second time and everyone got scores for their second launches.
Then it was time for awards. Everyone moved inside to avoid the rain while scores were added up.
Awards included best design, best team spirit, and first, second, and third place overall scores, among other honors.
One of the two teams sent to the competition by Nardin Academy won first place in this regional competition. West Seneca also took home some awards, as did Iroquois High School and the Buffalo Academy of Science.
One Moog official who spoke to the crowd said that as long as students learned something through the rocket building process, they won.
When the same worker asked if everyone had fun at the competition, everyone cheered and clapped loudly. For these teens, winning was not the most important part of the day, but having fun and learning about rocketry was the most significant aspect of the competition.
Rose Pelton, a student who competed, said the competition "is special because it’s a hands-on experience that allows you to explore math and science and problem-solving with your peers at a young age."
Sarah Crawford is a sophomore at Nardin Academy.