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Students shoot for the stars

March 08, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

A team of seven students who live in the Boonsboro area are working on a science project of such magnitude they have to contact the Federal Aviation Administration before launching their experiment.

The teenagers, working with college students, mentors and teachers, are on one of six teams from around the United States building rockets intended to shoot one mile into the sky.

Each team has a different payload in the rocket. The Boonsboro team's plan is to have at least a dozen live frog eggs and fruit flies in the rocket, coach Deborah Mirdamadi said Sunday.


The team can't shoot a rocket a mile high in this region because of the proximity to Camp David, she said. But even when launching the half-size rocket the team is practicing with - which only shoots 2,000 feet in the air - Mirdamadi said she still needs to notify the FAA first.

Last spring, the Boonsboro High School Rocket Team won the first national model rocket championship.

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

The top 10 teams were asked to participate in the Student Launch Initiative, a contest won by the group with the rocket that comes closest to flying exactly one mile.

The team, with some changes in membership, has been working on that goal since the fall and in recent months has been spending at least 10 hours a week on the project.

The students will launch the rockets at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama on April 27 and 28. The winners will spend a week at space camp in Alabama.

On Sunday, most of the group gathered at member Andrew Tyler Staub's house, where they used a field in his back yard to launch the rockets. Family and friends of Staub, 16, a junior at the school, watched the progress from chairs in the yard.

Wiring problems have hampered their recent launches and may cause them to delay plans to launch the full-size rocket in Price, Md., this weekend. If they can't fix problems on the small rocket, they need to wait before launching the larger rocket, the coach told the team.

At one point, Staub's neighbor drove up to the group and asked how many minutes until launch. Since there were only two minutes until liftoff, the man and his wife parked their truck and watched.

The neighbor, Gary Baker, said it is great to see teenagers working together on an intellectual exercise instead of hanging out at a street corner.

Team member Michael Hull, 14, an eighth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School, said the group decided to use frogs and fruit flies because they are so sensitive to changes in the environment.

The other team members are Ameen Mirdamadi, 16, a junior at Boonsboro High School; Brett Rosenthal, 13, of St. James; Lucas Horst, 13, an eighth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School; Kayvon Mirdamadi, 13, eighth grade, Boonsboro Middle School; and Tommy Jefferies, 15, a 10th-grader at Boonsboro High School.

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