Cats Blast Off

MINSTER — After eight months of preparation and trials, three Minster Rocket Club teams had their chance to shine last weekend at the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) near Washington, D.C., and one team earned a spot in the top 25 in the nation.

The three teams qualified for the national competition after beating 678 other teams from across the country to be named in the top 100. This was the first year Minster sent three teams to the competition, sending one each in 2010 and 2011. Minster Science and Technology teacher Ted Oldiges, who formed the Minster Rocket Club in 2009 to encourage student participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), said the teams have spent the entire school year preparing for the competition.

“This is not something you just throw together,” Oldiges said. “We’ve been working on this for eight months. We start back in the beginning of the school year when we first get the kids together and they go through an entire design process. They do all these processes and all this hard work for one day, and they’ve been awesome the entire time. Even the teams that didn’t make it to the TARC competition. Everyone is so supportive, and they help each other out.”

Learning, Oldiges said, is the focus of the club.

“That’s the whole idea of this — it’s learning,” he said. “Learning what works, learning what doesn’t and helping each other out and the teamwork that’s involved. We’ve got some teams that really helped out and very good individuals that stepped forward and helped out the group.”

To compete in TARC, the students were required to build a rocket to a list of specifications.

“Every year they have specific parameters you have to perform or the rocket has to do,” Oldiges said. “This year, the rocket had to fly to an exact altitude of 800 feet. It had to do a total duration – from when lifts off to when it touches the ground — between 43 and 47 seconds. It had to carry a payload of two raw eggs and it had to be under 650 grams.”

The parameters change each year, Oldiges noted.

“This is the 10th year of the competition, and every year they change the parameters of the competition,” he said. “Every year is a new challenge.”

The teams were met with sunny skies and little wind for the competition, a factor that Oldiges noted plays a big part in the launch.

“The weather has a massive, massive amount to do with the type of launch,” he said. “When it is colder, the air molecules are closer together, and when the air molecules are closer together, the rocket can’t cut the air as much, so the warmer it is, the higher the rocket will go. That’s another parameter that you have to take into consideration — all the weather conditions.”

Students conducted trials to find how their rocket performs in different weather conditions.

“The changes from the morning to the afternoon can be tremendous in how you set up the rocket,” Oldiges said. “So, your engineering and all the trials you do — you have to do a bunch of different trials under many different weather conditions to know how the rocket is going to perform.”

Team 3, which included of Nathan Riethman, Danielle Monnin, Carlin Elder, Blake Mallory and Sam Bornhorst, launched its rocket in the morning to cooler temperatures. The rocket’s flight lasted 37 seconds and the team found the altimeter did not engage, though it was in working order. The team received a score of 820.4, reflecting the missing altitude reading. The team earned 89th place.

Team 1, which included Reid Frick, Brooke Monnin, Macey Elder and Hailey Oldiges, launched its rocket later Saturday morning to around 70 degree temperatures. The flight went high, reaching 842 feet over a duration of 51 seconds. The team earned 60th place.

Team 2, which included Jessica Berelsman, Dane Dahlinghaus, Austin Dwenger and Pierce McGowan, was the final Minster Rocket Club team to launch. The temperature had reached more than 80 degrees by the early afternoon launch. The flight reached 791 feet over a duration of 40 seconds, despite the parachute not fully unveiling. The team earned 13th place and moved on to the final round to compete for scholarship money and prizes.

After the final round, Team 2 moved up one spot to finish in 12th place, joining the remainder of the top 25 teams that earned the right to compete in the NASA Student Launch Initiative (SLI).

The team of students will have the opportunity to work for NASA and compete in the SLI in April 2013.

“You have to make a proposal to NASA,” Oldiges said. “You have to have everything laid out — timeline, budget, plan. You make the proposal, and if they buy the proposal, they then give you some money to do it and you have to go down to Huntsville, Ala., next April.”

The parameters for the SLI competition are more extreme than the TARC parameters the students had been working with.

“The key to this SLI competition is to go to 5,280 feet exactly,” Oldiges said. “The TARC competition was 800 feet. Now, we’re talking 5,280 feet — one mile high. Now we’re into big rockets. Now we’re into six-foot to eight-foot rockets, four to six inches in diameter traveling close to Mach 1.”

Oldiges said he is proud of all five teams that competed this year in the Minster Rocket Club.

“I just couldn’t be more proud,” he said. “It’s little Minster and we’re up against these monster schools, and we held our own and did very, very well. It’s something to be very proud of. They’re using the knowledge that they’ve gained to put them on top.”

For more information about the Minster Rocket Club, visit