A ROCKET built by a group of students at St Mary’s Catholic College, Casino, has lifted the school to national success.
The college is the national champion after winning the Australian Youth Rocketry Challenge at the finals held near Jimboomba, in south-east Queensland, on July 22.
Principal Aaron Beach said St Mary’s beat 16 other finalists including previous winners Anglican Church Grammar School, Grace Lutheran College, Canterbury College and two aerospace specialist schools Aviation High and Indooroopilly High School.
“The standard of the competition made the win even more special,” Mr Beach said.
“Beating aerospace specialist schools demonstrates the knowledge and skills of our students.”
As part of the St Mary’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) program, 30 students helped in the research, preparation and development of the rockets and practise launches.
A team of six students represented the college in the competition.
The team was named the St Mary’s Stingers and their rocket was called the Beef Town Bullet.
The challenge was to build and fire a rocket to reach a pre-determined height and get it back on the ground in a certain time, all with the payload of a raw egg.
This year the rocket had to reach a height of 259m within 50 seconds.
Teacher in charge of the college’s STEM program Matt Rolfe said the students built a motor that gave the rocket power that was required to surpass the 259m; however, the second part of the challenge was to get the rocket back down to earth as close as possible to 50 seconds with the payload of the raw egg still intact.
“Our secret was in the mathematics of not just creating enough power but also the appropriate amount of drag,” Mr Rolfe said.
“We also used a two-part separation system, which, when hit with the motor back-charge, blew the payload section clear of the rocket.
“We then gave this section of the rocket its own parachute, allowing us to more accurately control its rate of descent.
“This was one of the secrets to our success.”
Mr Rolfe said teams received one point for every foot fired above or below the target distance and one point for every 0.1 second above or below 50-second allowance.
So the lower the score, the better and more accurate the teams were in achieving the goal.
“We hit a height of 253m with a time of fifty-three seconds which gave us a score of fifty,” Mr Rolfe said. “Second place received a score of 220, giving us a winning margin of 170 points.”
St Mary’s was the first school to win become national champion in their first year of competition.
“I am incredibly proud of our students,” Mr Beach said.
“Coming from such a small community with limited funding, our students continue to achieve great things when they pursue their dreams.
“As educators, we simply need to believe in them and show them the way.”
Mr Beach said the rocket program was part of the college’s progressive way of igniting passion for sciences and mathematics.
“Building rockets involves problem-solving, resilience, working together as a team and creativity which are all important skills for our children, no matter what career they pursue,” he said.
“We know technological skills are becoming increasingly important in all industries including farming.”
The registered team consisted of Dmitri Nommensen (Year 10), Billy Hooper (Year 10), Jackson Whitney (Year 8) and Mark Thompson (Year 8).
Year 12 students Henry Campbell and Cody Merenda didn’t compete on the day due to HSC study commitments.