By Jano Tantongco
St. Anthony’s High School Aerospace and Aviation Club truly aimed for the skies as they traveled to Great Meadow in The Plains, VA, just outside of Washington, D.C., to blast off their carbon fiber rocket in the national finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge.
The Friars squad was one of 100 teams to qualify for the finals out of a total 812 from across the nation. They competed for $100,000 in prizes, as well as the chance to represent the U.S. in the International Rocketry Challenge to be held at the Paris Air Show in June. There, teams from the United Kingdom, France and Japan will face the U.S. champions for the international title.
This year’s challenge involved blasting off a rocket carrying a raw egg up 775 feet before returning to Earth, all while keeping the egg uncracked, within 41-43 seconds.
With a score of 45, St. Anthony’s took home 10th place, earning themselves a $5,000 prize in the process.
Dr. Mark Capodanno, St. Anthony’s science teacher and the club’s moderator, said the rockets start out with cardboard mock-ups, and are then created with light and durable carbon fiber.
“They’re using some cutting-edge technology. And, it’s part of St. Anthony’s efforts to promote STEM-related [fields] and helping to encourage students to go into those careers in the future,” Capodanno said.
Senior and co-president of the club, Elias Smith, of Greenlawn, described the process of building the rocket from the ground up.
He said the process began with sketching out the rocket on looseleaf paper, estimating ideal dimensions for flight. Then, various parameters are put into a flight simulator to find the best fit.
Then, the measurements would be put into software that laser cuts a mold for the various components of the rocket. Then, the team spends three days at the Composite Prototyping Center factory in Plainview to create the carbon fiber pieces, which are then epoxied together and baked to produce the final product.
Fellow co-president Nicholas Reda, of New Hyde Park, said the team has practiced at Crab Meadow Beach on fair weather days to fine tune their designs.
“We feel very confident in our rockets, as we’re able to launch them frequently and get pretty accurate numbers, close to the target altitude,” Reda said.
Matthew Epifania, a junior and two-year member of the club, designed the fins that help stabilize the rocket.
Epifania, a senior from Glen Cove, said he hopes to eventually major in aerospace engineering.
“I learned that carbon fiber is light, and it is strong, and it is the future of aviation,” Epifania said.