Aiming for the stars, middle schoolers head to Washington D.C. for American Rocketry Challenge

Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 5:31 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - It’s not a bird, nor a plane, but instead it’s a rocket. A model rocket carrying two eggs to be exact. A group of students from the Cornerstone School in Ocala is launching their ship into the sky, and it’s getting national attention.

In two weeks the team of 6th and 7th graders will be headed to Washington D.C. to participate in the American Rocketry Challenge. They are among 101 finalists from 27 states that will be in attendance, vying for a myriad of prizes.

“I’m looking forward to putting myself out there to make this rocket succeed in what it’s trying to do,” 7th grader Ryan Pennington said.

The goal of the competition is to launch the vessel 835 feet (254 meters) into the air for at least 41 to 44 seconds, without breaking the fragile passengers inside.

“One of my favorite subjects in school is science,” 6th grader Daniel Effiren said.

The rocket club at Cornerstone is in its first year. Much like other S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs, students learn how to build and use their own creations. Effiren said it was the robotics club at Cornerstone that got him interested in trying out other programs.

“I do really like doing rockets, so I probably will do this in the future years if we continue it like in 7th grade,” he said.

STEM Coordinator at the Cornerstone School Joe Moseley and rocketry coach and club sponsor Peter Zaloom oversee the program. Zaloom is a retired school teacher from New York, where he coordinated similar programs.

“It’s real rocket science and it’s real working together,” Zaloom said.

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