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Students at Casino Catholic school behind ‘mysterious’ rocket launch

Students launch rocket

Flying high: From left, Henry Campbell, Lachlan Pontefract, Jackson Whitney (front), Kaleb Peart and Cody Merenda are part of the rocket-building team at St Mary’s College.

ST Mary’s College, Casino, has revealed that the mysterious rocket identified in a recent local newspaper report was fired by its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) tudents.

The students have been building and launching rockets in preparation for the 2017 Australian Rocketry Challenge.

Project teacher in charge Matt Rolfe said St Mary’s was entering the Australian Youth Rocketry Challenge for the first time this year and recently launched several rockets above Casino as part of preparations and testing for the event.

“Over 20 students from Years 7 to 12 are in a team that have to design and build a rocket that will reach apogee at 260m (850 feet) with a payload of a raw egg,” he said.

“The aim is that the rocket separates, and, with a parachute, the egg and rocket have to land as close as possible to fifty seconds from take off, without breaking.

“It is a very difficult challenge as most commercial rocket engines use a delayed back-charge system to launch their chutes, however if we used this system we would end up with broken eggs and fail the challenge.”

Mr Rolfe said in the township of Casino, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority limitations allowed students to launch up to only 120m, due to the proximity to the airport.

“In order for us to experiment with higher heights we do have secondary launch sites on private properties outside of the 5.4 nautical mile exclusion zone as we need to be testing up to nearly 300m (1000 feet),” he said.

Principal Aaron Beach said St Mary’s STEM program was part of the college’s progressive way of igniting passion for sciences and mathematics.

“Current research is telling us Australia is falling behind other countries, in both high school interest and university enrolments when it comes to both science and mathematics,” he said.

“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.

“We know technological skills are becoming increasingly important in all industries including farming.

“We wish the students the best of luck when they participate in the Australian finals in Queensland in July.”

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