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San Luis rocketeers advance to national finals
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — Five students here have earned a place among 100 teams around the nation in a model rocket competition that will test contestants' ability to send two raw eggs aloft and bring them back to the ground unbroken,
The San Luis youths — Saul Sonido, Oziel Origel, Omar Velazquez and Julio Herrera, all of San Luis Middle School, and San Luis High School student Mario Gonzalez — earned a slot in the Team America Rocketry Challenge National Finals on the strength of their rocket's performance in recent qualifying flights.
The San Luis youths will be the only Arizona team traveling to the Washington, D.C., area to take part in the competition sponsored by the National Association of Rocketry and the Aerospace Industries Association.
“This is something that's really big,” said Velazquez. “I feel nervous and relaxed at the same time, but I'm really happy.”
The competition challenges each team to build and launch a model rocket to an altitude of 800 feet in a flight lasting from 43 to 47 seconds. Using a parachute, the rocket must them return to earth without either in its payload of two raw eggs breaking.
The San Luis team assembled its rocket mainly from scrap materials in an exercise that required not only craftsmanship but forced the students to work out math and logics problems, said Francisco Vasquez, a San Luis Middle School science teacher who has been supervising the young rocketeers.
In qualifying flights overseen by National Association of Rocketry judges, the San Luis team beat out the scores of 678 other teams from around the country to win a slot among the top 100 teams.
The San Luis team, formed three years ago, will be competing in the finals for the first time next month. It attended last year's finals but not as a competing team.
This year, teams will be vying for shares of $60,000 in scholarship money that will be split among the top 10 teams. The winner earns the right to advance to an international model rocketry competition in on London.
Part of the benefit on the competition, at least for San Luis Middle School, is that it promotes student interest in math and science, said Vasquez.
“We need more engineers, technicians, scientists and Hispanic teachers in those areas. This is a way to guide them toward those careers and to tell them that it's great for our youth to excel in sports or in the arts, but also in these other areas.”
Participating in the national competition also allows the San Luis students to establish contacts with colleges and universities whose representatives attend seeking worth recipients for future scholarships, he added.
The San Luis school, meanwhile, is accepting contributions to help cover the estimated $8,000 cost of sending the students to the national competition. Anyone wishing to donate can do so by calling Martha Gonzalez, (928) 502-9642; María Velazquez, (928) 941-8439, or Vasquez, at (928) 261-8756.