Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Maharishi School’s rocketry team has been blazing a path of excellence ever since the team finished fourth at a national competition in 2017.
Each year, the team has made steady improvements to the design of its rockets, and this year has been honored for putting together one of the best presentations on its design.
The American Rocketry Challenge — known by its abbreviation TARC — hosts a 15-minute, 20-slide contest featuring a panel of expert rocketry judges. More than 600 teams entered the contest this year, and five teams were selected to do a live presentation based on their 20-slide entry.
Maharishi School was among the five to be selected for the finals.
The team will make its presentation for the finals, covering its rocket design, 3D printed parts, manufacturing and flight testing to a panel of judges Saturday. The winner takes home $3,000.
The team learned that it has made it into the top 100 teams participating in the flight competition, where students must build a rocket that reaches a certain altitude and which falls back to Earth in a specific window of time. This year’s competition required them to hit a target of 800 feet, with a flight duration between 40-43 seconds.
On Saturday, June 12, the Maharishi School team will travel to Brighton, Wisconsin, where it will launch its rocket in the finals competition. The finals would normally be held in Washington, D.C., but because of the pandemic, TARC organizers are asking teams to travel to regional sites rather than all gathering in the same city. The Wisconsin site is the closest to Fairfield. The team won’t know how it has placed in the finals until all flights from around the country have been scored later in June.
Maharishi School’s rocketry team adviser Rick Rudloff, who teaches at the school, said many of the rockets in the competition will look similar from school to school. However, it’s all the parts inside the rocket hidden from view that give Maharishi School an edge over its competitors.
Rudloff said the students have designed a device that holds an altimeter (device used to measure altitude) securely in place in the rocket’s nose. Before, the students held the altimeter in place by drilling holes in the side of the rocket and inserting pins, but over time the holes got bigger, and they affected the rocket’s flight. The new design solves that problem because it doesn’t weaken the body of the rocket.
The students use a 3D printer at the school to make certain parts of the rocket such as the nose cone. Rudloff said they’ve made major advances in that, as well. They once used a kind of 3D printing that relied on a heat bond, but the resulting cone was prone to breaking. A new way of 3D printing, relying on a chemical bond, has produced a nose cone that has withstood every stress test the students have put it under.
Each student on the team fulfills a distinct role.
Senior Shristi Sharma is the team’s captain. She basically oversees everything to ensure each student has found something they want to do and will be responsible for that on the launch day. She’s also done a little bit of everything from the design to the construction to the 3D printing. She said she got involved in the team after witnessing the older students place fourth at nationals when she was in eighth grade.
“I thought it was ridiculously awesome we got to build rockets and blow them up,” she said. “When I joined, we built a rocket literally 8 feet tall that went up to a mile high. It was a lot of work, and it turned out there was more to it than blowing up rockets. The science and design aspect helped me keep going with it.”