It was a different scene last Friday afternoon. The booming noise didn’t come from the locker room, but from beneath a model rocket shot hundreds of feet up into the air over Creekview High School’s 50-yard line.
One of Creekview’s four-person rocketry teams was testing its model rocket before heading off to Washington, D.C., to compete against 5,000 other students throughout the country in the 2013 Team America Rocketry Challenge, the team’s third appearance in the competition and the only school to represent the state of Georgia.
Just minutes before liftoff, team co-adviser Tim Smyrl, who also coaches football and track, shouted to another coach training athletes across the field and gave a tentative thumbs up to get the OK for launch.
“The big one?” the coach shouted back from across the field.
Smyrl gave a nod and a chuckle, and the group took a few steps back and watched.
All of these afternoon practices have led the team, comprised of team captain senior Chase Tetpon, junior Trace Sosebee and freshmen Austen Bralick and Ben McNamara, to place in the top 100 teams nationwide.
Co-advisor Todd Sharrock said he plans to take about 10 other rocketry club members along with the team to the nation’s capital for the competition, where the group will also tour the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and participate in Rockets on the Hill, an event where the students will get to meet with U.S. representatives as well as leaders in the air and space industry.
The Creekview team didn’t make the national finals last year, but beat out more than 625 teams nationally to head to the challenge on May 11. National title winners will take home $60,000 in scholarships and prizes and a chance to participate in NASA’s Student Launch Initiative.
Sharrock and Smyrl, both science teachers, met years ago at the school district’s Camp Cherokee program where they found out they would both be teaching at Creekview.
“Through talking, we found out we both loved aerospace and started that when we came here,” Sharrock said.
Growing from eight members in 2008 to a 30-member club, all team members have the opportunity to earn an academic letter.
Sharrock said he thinks the possibility of making it to the national competition might be a big draw for some, but many are genuinely interested in the hobby for the opportunity to utilize science and math skills.
“I think a lot of these kids wouldn’t have a niche to fit in otherwise,” he said.
Tetpon said he joined the club last year after moving from New York and a friend suggested he give it a shot.
“Chase knows everything,” said teammate Bralick as Tetpon explained the launch process and the inner-workings of the rocket.
According to competition rules, the rocket will have to safely carry one raw egg to the exact altitude of 750 feet and return to the ground within 48 to 50 seconds or incur penalties.
As the group took a few steps back before the launch, Tetpon reassured the crowd.
“We’ve only had one blow up this year,” he said.
That statistic has improved, as Tetpon admitted he was bad luck in his first year.
“Last year, our first rocket tipped over on its stand and fired straight at us,” he said.
Tetpon led the countdown.
“Three… two… one…” he shouted.
Nothing happened. The rocket failed to ignite, but it didn’t fire into the crowd, either.
On Tetpon’s second try, the rocket zoomed over the field and came back down for a solid landing, with a flight time of 43.5 seconds.
“That’s really good for the first try,” Sharrock said.