Northeast Mississippi fields two national rocketry teams

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

Seven Mississippi schools were among 669 in the nation who competed to go to the national Team America Rocketry Challenge in the Washington area next month, but only New Site and Starkville Christian Home Educators were successful.
New Site’s team includes seven students; Starkville’s, three students. All will travel to the location near Manassas, Va., for the May 15 contest.
Competing on the New Site team are Darrah Pharr, Ashley Cox, Ethan Taylor, Cody Hall, Andrew Moreland, Bree Harris and Cody Taylor, all seniors. Harris and Taylor are new to the team this year, while the other five were on the 2009 team that placed third in the nation and brought home a share of $60,000 in scholarship money.
Starkville’s team includes senior Matthew Berk; Sammira Rais-Rohani, a seventh-grader; and Miandra Maiers, 10th grade. Berk is the only returning member of the 2008 team that placed sixth in the national finals and earned scholarship money, as well.
“To get ready for nationals they have to build three new rockets, and they’ll be perfecting the design and flying test rockets,” said New Site physics teacher Ester Potts, the team’s mentor. “We’re planning practice launches at other area schools, including Marietta and Hills Chapel.”
This is the third year the Starkville group has participated, and mentor Scott Hunt has been with them all the way.
“The way it started is I worked for Aurora Flight Sciences and my boss, Greg Stewart, was the general manager at the time,” Hunt said. “He had been in model rocketry for a number of years and competed on the U.S. Model Rocket Team.”
In 2007, the company CEO wanted to promote the TARC competition to get students excited about going into science as a career. Stewart formed a team at the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science, the only Mississippi team to compete that year.
Stewart has helped start a number of other rocketry teams since then.
The challenge varies from one year to another so that teams will need to learn new rocketry skills.
This year the teams must again fly a raw egg to a specific altitude – 825 feet versus last year’s 750 feet – for 40 to 45 seconds, and return the egg safely to ground using a streamer instead of the parachute used last year.