Flying high

WC Rocketry Team soars to Nationals

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship Senior Kaitlynn Seeley and Advisor Matt Matteson display the Webster City Rocketry Club’s replica Saturn 5 rocket.

A group of students at the Webster City High School are shooting for the stars with their STEM skills. And their hard work has paid off.

The Webster City Rocketry Club, now in its second year, has been selected to compete in the national Team America Rocketry Challenge next month

The idea for the high school club all started with the Mark Murphy, Bill Huegerich and Matt Matteson, three tech guys at Webster City Schools who were into rocketry. Matteson said Murphy and Huegerich were both interested in flying high-power model rockets and he decided to join them. The three travel to Indianola where they fly the rockets.

The men brought that interest back to school where the high school club was born.

There are seven students currently involved in the Rocketryclub. Seeley, one the seniors in the group, wasn’t sure she would like rocketry at first. But decided to try it out.

— Submitted photo WC Rocketry Club members include, from left, back row, Josh Casady, Brayden Berg, Jacob Schutt, Jayce Abens, Zachery Mickelson; front row, Kaitlynn Seeley and Kyra Wagner.

“I thought it was cool and sounded like it could be a lot of fun,” she said.

The students have been working throughout the year to perfect their rocket and to meet the requirements for the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

“Through the summer, we spend a lot of hours designing and doing it over and over again,” Seeley said. “Then we meet every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 a.m.”

Matteson said the students designed the pieces and built the rocket to scale. They used a laser cutter to manufacture the rocket’s fins and the other parts were printed on a 3D printer.

“There’s a lot of math involved,” Seeley said.

“It teaches the kids how to troubleshoot and think through problems,” Matteson said.

This year, TARC requirements stipulated that the rockets had to fly to a height of 856 feet. The rocket must travel from launch to touch down with in 43 to 46 seconds. If the rocket goes above or below the required altitude or goes outside of the 43 to 46 second time period, points will be added to the score.

“The goal is to have zero points,” said Matteson.

The club was allowed three qualifying flights and had to have an observer from outside of the club time the flight and check the altimeter in the rocket.

“You take the best two scores of the three flights and submit those to TARC. They then take the top 100 scores. Those in the top 100 get invited to Nationals,” Matteson said. This year there were 883 teams involved in TARC.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. To commemorate the occasion, teams were encouraged to create rockets that looked like the Saturn 5. A prize of $500 will go to the team creating the aircraft that most resembles the Saturn 5, Matteson said.

“There were three astronauts in the Apollo mission, so this rocket will carry three eggs,” he said. If the eggs crack or break, the team is disqualified.

Also this year, Matteson said the two sections of the rocket have to come to earth separately with parachutes.

At nationals, each team will be allowed one flight. If the rocket scores well enough, the team will be asked to make another flight. Matteson said about 20 teams will get that second flight.

“They’ll combine scores for the two flights and the lowest score will determine the winner,” he said.

“If you win Nationals, Raytheon flies your team to Paris, France to compete in the world competition.”

Nationals will be held in Plains, Virginia the weekend of May 17, the same weekend as Webster City’s graduation. Seeley and Jacob Schutt, both seniors, will be going, along with three underclassmen. The seniors will return early Sunday morning so they can attend their afternoon graduation ceremony.

In addition to Seeley and Schutt, the team is comprised of seniors Josh Casady and Brayden Berg along with underclassmen Jayce Abens, Zachery Mickelson and Kyra Wagner.

The team will start recruiting new members after Nationals and begin work on next year’s rocket.

Seeley encouraged high school students to get involved with the Rocketry Club.

“It’s certainly a good experience. You get to learn so many different things,” she said.