New Site rocket team prepares for next competition

NEW SITE – A third place finish in the national Team America Rocketry Challenge brings the possibility of new challenges and opportunities for Ester Potts and her New Site High School rocket team.
Potts is one of the educators and mentors who guided the top 20 teams in the national competition, and will participate in a NASA-sponsored workshop for those educators and mentors Tuesday-Thursday at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
“We’ve been invited to submit a proposal to participate in the Student Launch Initiative, but we can’t participate unless I attend this workshop,” Potts said.
NASA’s Student Launch Initiative is the next level of rocket science exploration. The agency sent Potts contents to construct a prototype of the new type of rocket the student team would be required to build.
As they worked on putting the rocket together, team members Cody Hall, Ashley Cox, Andrew Moreland, Ethan Taylor and Darrah Phar were introduced to new materials and new rules.
“One thing these projects require the students to do is read instructions carefully,” Potts said.
The TARC competition in which they competed so well during May’s national event required the team to launch a cardboard rocket carrying a raw egg, lying horizontally in the rocket, to a height of 750 feet, with the flight lasting 45 seconds.
In the Student Launch Initiative a team partners with NASA to design, build, test and launch a reusable rocket carrying a scientific payload to one mile above ground level.
Not only are the requirements more exacting, but also the person who launches the rocket for the team must have a higher certification level.
“We’ll launch these rockets on Saturday toward the end of the workshop, and that will qualify me for Level 1 certification,” Potts said. “I’m hoping to learn more about how to get a Level 2 mentor if we are selected for the SLI.”

Seven students from Potts’ New Site team made the trip to Virginia for the national competition and will share $9,000 of the $10,000 third place prize money, with $1,000 going to the school team.
A highlight of the trip for team members Charles Reece, Bronson Perrigo, Cox, Pharr, Hall, Moreland and Taylor was the day U.S. Rep. Travis Childers spent with them.
Childers took them for a day at Mount Vernon, Va., the estate home and final resting place of George and Martha Washington. In addition to the mansion, the site includes a dozen outbuildings, gardens, a hiking trail and a four-acre working farm.
“We had dinner at the Hard Rock Café,” Cox said. “He was so nice. I couldn’t believe he would spend that kind of time with us.”
And last month the company which sponsored the team – Aurora Flight Services – held a special recognition at their Columbus plant, which included informal discussions with company founder and chairman John S. Langford.
“When they received their trophy in Virginia, it was presented by the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force,” Potts said. “They have really gained a lot from the experiences they’ve had so far.”

Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio