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Trio has 'right stuff'

Boonsboro students win rocket title

Boonsboro students win rocket title

May 14, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The rain cleared, the wind stopped blowing and the sun came out when the Boonsboro High School Rocket Team launched its multi-colored rocket, which soared to a booming first-place win in the first-ever national model rocket championship.

Boonsboro High School sophomore Ameen Mirdamadi, 15, and Boonsboro Middle School seventh-graders Kayvon Mirdamadi, 13, and Brett Rosenthal, 12, won the first Team America Rocketry Challenge Saturday at Great Meadow, The Plains, Va.

"They won everything. They won the top spot in the whole nation. It's unbelievable," said Samuel Lucas, the team's advisor and Boonsboro High School chemistry teacher.

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The Boonsboro team was one of 100 teams from across the country to compete Saturday. Each team had one chance to fly a rocket carrying two large hen's eggs to precisely 1,500 feet and then parachute the eggs to earth uncracked.

The boys' rocket blasted to exactly 1,500 feet.

Kayvon gave Mother Nature a lot of credit for the win. He said Saturday was windy and wet and at times lightning flashed across the sky. The weather gave the team's modest rocket an advantage over many of the ornate ones, which were built with engines that ran on electricity and fizzled out in the rain's mist, Ameen said.

Some last-minute engineering also may have boosted the team's chances of winning.

Ameen said that although the team members had built their rocket for the competition beforehand, they made some last-minute changes before their launch.

They discovered their rocket's parachute had two re-tied strings, which weren't durable enough for flight, so the team had to find a replacement. Ameen said the team had to buy a new parachute, which was 2 inches larger than their old parachute, from an event vendor.

The team had taken a few of its older rockets to the competition. After eyeing their newest rocket, equipped with a fresh parachute, the boys decided to replace some of its parts with those from their older rockets.

The result was a white, silver, black, orange and green masterpiece.

"Ours definitely wasn't the best looking there," Brett said.

Ameen said that once the rocket launched, the boys followed it, running and celebrating for a half-mile, before they watched it land next to a stream.

"We had to go through a big swamp area," Brett said. "There was water everywhere and it was yucky."

And like the fallen baseball player who discovers he still has the ball in his glove, the boys discovered their eggs had not broken.

"Nobody could beat us because we had 1,500 feet," Brett said.

The first-of-its-kind Team America Rocketry Challenge was co-sponsored by the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and the Aerospace Industries Association. The challenge commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk.

The boys qualified in March out of 873 teams by successfully launching their rocket 1,575 feet at Middletown Park, a legal site for rocket launching.

The Boonsboro team received a check Saturday for a $14,000 savings bond. Ameen said they figured out their shares, $4,666.67, on the "Incredible Edible Egg" calculators that had been given to them at the event's free omelet breakfast.

All have said they're not sure what they will do with the money, but Ameen hinted that his portion of the winnings might go toward his college education.

As part of the prize, the Boonsboro High School science department will receive $2,200 and Lucas was invited to attend an advanced NASA rocketry workshop in July. He said members of the department have to decide how the money will be used.

On this day the boys were playing paint ball outside one of their parents' home, but all have said rocketry will remain a hobby.

"I kind of like it," Ameen said. "I think we can keep doing it."

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