MONROE – For the first time in program history, the Falcon Flyers of Monroe High School have been named finalists in the American Rocketry Challenge. The team will travel to Virginia to compete as one of four teams representing New Jersey in the top 100.
The national challenge, which is sponsored by various organizations within the aerospace industry, aims to inspire students to pursue STEM-related careers. According to Eric Fanning, president and CEO of Aerospace Industries Association, the competition serves as a powerful introduction to the industry.
“The hands-on experience students gain as part of the American Rocketry Challenge creates limitless pathways in STEM and the aerospace industry, opening the door for them to be a part of the world’s most exciting innovations,” Fanning said.
In addition to the experience, all finalists will be competing for a national title, $100,000 in prizes, an all-expenses paid trip to London for the international finals, and for the top 25 teams, an invitation to NASA’s Student Launch workshop.
For this year’s contest, students were tasked with constructing a model rocket capable of reaching an altitude of 835 feet for 41 to 44 seconds, while carrying two raw eggs.
The Falcon Flyers, sponsored by Jamesburg Presbyterian Church, entered the competition with nine team members from 11th and 12th grades. Each member played a specific role to contribute to the team and if needed, roles were changed to give every team member an opportunity to try something new.
With designated roles for rocket design, performance simulation, and more, every member played a vital role in ensuring the rocket was complete.
Advisor/Team Supervisor Shital Shah said this year’s team overcame several obstacles to develop a top-100 rocket.
“The Falcon Flyers have made it to the final 100 for the first time in two years. In the first year, the team struggled with communication and time management. However, the second year around, the team worked together to ultimately make it to the finals.
“The process of rocket building is, as expected, not simple. Through rounds of trial and error, hours of simulation, and laborious construction of the rocket, we perfected the rockets for the Qualification Flights.
“To simulate the rocket and then doing it for real was quite different. Since there are a lot of other factors like wind, the launching pad, the direction of launch, etc., it was different than theory. That was a challenge to manage the time since we needed the perfect wind speed and dry ground for the test flights.
“We had to grab the opportunity in between their studies and other extracurricular activities. We wanted to make it cost effective and had to follow the rules,” Shah said.
Shah explained that although the process was tedious, it was rewarding for everyone involved as the students learned about time management, engineering, communication, physics and math.
“As the team supervisor, I watch the students work and make sure they don’t use outside sources. More importantly, I just love watching them.
“We are proud of our team and the multitalented individuals. We had so much fun while doing this,” Shah said.
Shah hopes that for next year’s competition, Monroe Township High School (MTHS) will sponsor the team to give more students an opportunity to get involved.
“For the past two years, the Jamesburg Presbyterian Church has sponsored the Falcon Flyers Team. The team consists of MTHS students who are willingly participating out of their own enjoyment and personal growth.
“In the coming year, we hope that MTHS will sponsor the competition as an extracurricular club within the school. Through the school, we can have as many students as possible,” Shah said.
For more information on the American Rocketry Challenge, visit https://rocketcontest.org/about/