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San Luis students aim for national rocketry title
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — Three students at San Luis Middle School are hoping that their model rocket will land their school in a national competition's finals for the second year in a row.
Lucia Arias, Jose Martinez and Jonathan Contreras are among 700 teams from elementary or junior high schools around the country that have qualified for the first round of the Team America Rocketry Challenge, sponsored by the National Rocketry Association.
The students made the cut in a recent qualifying flight before judges from the association in Tucson, where they launched the rocket to an altitude of 750 feet and then brought it back to earth with a parachute without breaking the payload: a raw egg. The competition guidelines also required the rocket to stay aloft for 48 seconds.
Sometime in the weeks ahead, the team will make another launch in a bid to advance to the last round among 100 finalists competing in Team America Rocketry Challenge, to be held in Virginia.
Apart from being a competition, the rocketry challenge allows the students to apply lessons they learn in the classroom, said Francisco Vasquez, a San Luis Middle School science teacher and team adviser.
“The kids are putting to the test their knowledge, but above all they are using something basic in science and technology — that is, persistence and teamwork. The judges said that (the San Luis team) is one the most disciplined and organized teams that has qualified.”
But not all went smoothly in the run-up to the first qualifying flight in Tucson, team member Martinez conceded.
“We were very nervous. In the practice flights, we had several problems with the parachutes — they would get tangled when they opened.”
Had that problem recurred in Tucson, he said, the team would likely have been eliminated, since it was allowed to make only one launch.
But with the flight having been successful, the team now hopes to duplicate the achievements of last year's team from San Luis Middle School. That team made it to the final round among 100 teams, although it did not win the title.
Vasquez said the guidelines for this year's competition have been set higher, forcing the students to come together tightly as a team to overcome the challenges facing them.
The national competition will take place in May, again in Virginia, with the top team among 100 finalists winning $60,000 in scholarships for its members plus the right to represent the United States in the international competition in London this summer.
In the event the San Luis team makes it to the finals, Vasquez said, donations are being accepted to cover the students' travel to Virginia. To donate, call Vasquez at 261-8756 or 627-6920.