Army inspires next generation rocket scientists
Timothy Lyons, a chemical engineer, and Robert Carestia, a mechanical engineer, explain the technologies that the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center use to build grenades, rockets during a rocket competition at The Plains, Va., on May 15.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The Army is inspiring the next generation of rocket scientists through the world's largest rocket design contest.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's chemical and biological center supported the 8th annual Team America Rocketry Challenge May 15. As exhibitor at this year's TARC, the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, whose participation was funded by the National Defense Education Program, encouraged middle and high school students to pursue careers in aerospace, as well as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

"With the NDEP's goal to foster a new generation of scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technologists, it is a pleasure to witness the rocket performances of America's highly skilled youth," said NDEP Director Bob McGahern. "I foresee a bright future for these talented individuals."

At the launch site in The Plains, Va., a clear blue sky provided excellent weather conditions for students to demonstrate their rocket constructions. During the national anthem at the opening ceremony, the American flag waved across the field, and the nation's TARC finalists were ready for take-off.

After 669 teams competed from 30 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands in local qualification flights, the top 100 qualifying teams were invited to launch their team-produced rockets at the final fly-off competition. Vying for $60,000 in scholarships and prizes, the finalists took on the challenge of designing, building and flying their model rocket at a specified altitude and duration Aca,!aEURc determined by a set of rules that is developed each year.

"This year's challenge was to reach an altitude of 825 feet with a flight time of 40 to 45 seconds," reported ECBC Community and Educational Outreach Manager Mary Doak. "Also, the teams had to return a raw egg payload to the ground unbroken without using a parachute.

"I was very impressed with the talent and ambition of all participants."

Army representatives displayed models of smoke items such as grenades, artillery projectiles, and rocket warheads, and explained their function to students. In addition, ECBC Mechanical Engineer Robert Carestia and ECBC Chemical Engineer Timothy Lyons brought an animated munitions library that students could manipulate to see how military smoke delivery systems are deployed in theater.

According to Carestia, TARC participants followed the same process steps and tackle the same challenges as ECBC engineers when developing rockets and grenades that carry smoke payloads.

"We start with assembling a team, distributing project responsibilities and defining requirements; then we build a prototype and deliver the final design," he said. "But, it is also crucial to calculate factors such as G-forces and the weight of launch payloads throughout the engineering process."

Using three laptops as prototype simulators for 10-minute training videos, Carestia and Lyons illustrated how ECBC utilizes video animation to provide the warfighter with an enhanced interactive training tool. They showed students animated scenarios Aca,!aEURc either in a Kiowa helicopter or a Paladin Howitzer Aca,!aEURc to give them an idea of deploying rockets in a battlefield situation while maneuvering in Army vehicles.

"This was my first year supporting TARC, and I was truly fascinated by the enthusiasm and engineering talent the students demonstrated today," said Carestia. "I very much enjoyed interacting with them and discussing the use of smoke and obscuration in combination with animated simulation as a cost-effective life saver and force multiplier in theater."

Participating in TARC teaches students the basics of physics and engineering design that scientists and engineers use for their projects in the real world.

"At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to attend, but it was so much fun winning all the exciting science games," said Allissa Lyons, a 12-year-old TARC participant. "I learned that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to walk away with lots of prizes."

The four-person team from Penn Manor High School in Millersville, Pa., took first place in this year's rocketry challenge. In addition to monetary prizes, they won a trip to the Farnborough International Air Show in July and will compete against the UK and French national champions in the International Youth Rocketry Challenge.

This year's TARC was sponsored by Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry. Other partners included the American Association of Physics Teachers; the Department of Defense; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and more than 30 AIA companies, such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

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Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16