Whitney Young teens compete in national rocketry finals

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The Whitney Young Aerospace Club soared into the Team America Rocketry Challenge National Finals this weekend as the only Illinois team ranked in the top 100 of 800 entries from across the country this year. (WLS)

The Whitney Young Aerospace Club soared into the Team America Rocketry Challenge National Finals this weekend as the only Illinois team ranked in the top 100 of 800 entries from across the country this year.

"Nervous and excited at the same time," said team captain Ivan Olguin Thursday of his mindset heading into Saturday's competition, which takes place outside Washington, D.C.

The contest asked students to design and build a rocket that takes off, peaks at 800 feet in the air, and returns to the ground within 41-43 seconds of take-off. As an added challenge, two eggs must ride along and return to earth without any cracks.

Whitney Young has two teams that put ideas into a computer program last fall. David Wang's "Mark 1 E" design was ultimately chosen for The Ruckus team that advanced to the finals.

"We look at the tests and we adjust the rocket design until it meets our target specifications," explained the Whitney Young junior as he ran simulations on RockSim, computer software that allows users to alter conditions and repeatedly test their design ideas.

"How you assemble all the steps, how you assemble all the pieces, it requires some thinking before you actually start to build it," said Olguin of the next phase.

These are not typical rocket kits. The team estimates their design with a high-powered engine could be flying as fast as 335 mph. After testing a prototype, they perfected their design and wound up with the national finals-qualifying rocket. The Whitney Young teens think it could be a winner because it's adjustable to changing weather. For example, they created a hollow compartment that can hold clay without changing the center of mass.

"That can allow us to change the altitude of our rocket, how high it goes," explained team member and Whitney Young junior Henry Webb.

If The Ruckus prevails, the Chicago squad will be "go for launch" in London this summer, taking on teams from the UK, France and Japan. For these teens, the sky is truly the limit.
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