Heuvelton Space Dogs going for the win in the American Rocketry Challenge
The team includes from left Blake Collier (electronics specialist), Willem Gleeson (Project manager and construction), Bradyn Dawson (rocket construction), Cooper White (Data analyst and launch crew), Adam West (media and photography), Shane Mudge (launch crew and construction), and Bob Kennedy (supervisor/mentor).
BY MATT LINDSEY
North Country This Week
HEUVELTON – Aiming for the stars, The Heuvelton Central High School Space Dogs Team hopes to win the American Rocketry Challenge later this month.
Students must design a rocket using software, build it from scratch, and test fly it numerous times, according to Bob Kennedy, who also serves as the team supervisor/mentor.“This models real world engineering problems beautifully,” Kennedy said. “Every year a different challenging set of problems is introduced.”
Kennedy, who is a science teacher in the district, said Heuvelton has qualified nine times over the past 18 years. He has his High Power Rocketry Certification through the National Association of Rocketry which makes him uniquely qualified to also serve as the team's mentor.
“We have had 4 top 30 finishes including an 8th place in the nation in 2003,” Kennedy said. “We have quite the legacy at the National Championships.
The competition was meant to be a one off celebration of the first Wright Brothers flight in 1903, Kennedy said.
“Its immense popularity that first year made it an annual competition. We took 8th out of 100 finalists that year,” he said.
Kennedy said many team member alumni have pursued STEM careers and are currently engineers, teachers and healthcare professionals.
“Students on the team have been able to network with the upper management of large aerospace companies at the competition,” he said.
Many team members have studied at prestigious universities such as The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology and Clarkson University to name a few.
This year’s competition featured nearly 800 teams and 4,500 students from 45 states. For 2023, each team was required to design, build, and launch model rockets that safely carries one large hen egg to an altitude of 850 feet, stays airborne for between 42 and 45 seconds, and returns the rocket to the ground safely.
The twist is, the rocket must separate into two parts after apogee—one section of the rocket must contain the egg and altimeter, and the second the rocket motor(s)—and both parts must land with their own parachutes.
Students test out a rocket. Photo submitted by Bob Kennedy.
The students will compete against other teams at the National Finals, taking place on May 20 in The Plains, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. In addition to competing for the title of national champion and an all-expense paid trip to the International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris Air Show in June, teams will be competing for $100,000 in prizes. The top 25 teams will automatically receive invitations to NASA’s Student Launch workshop.
“The past three years that we have traveled to the nationals, the team members have displayed their rocket at the Senate office building in Washington D.C.,” Kennedy said. “During that opportunity students meet with high ranking military officials, members of Congress, upper management of major Aerospace companies, as well as current and past astronauts. Through these associations several of my students actually arranged their engineering internships.”
The Heuvelton Team is grateful to their local sponsors; Siemans Industry Inc with offices in Syracuse and Potsdam; and the Heuvelton AMVETS post 1997 for their continued support of the rocketry program.