Green Vale's storied rocketry program has once again qualified for the premier national rocket competition outside Washington this weekend — the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). This year, GVS had two teams of six students qualify to compete out of 840 applicants nationwide. The 100 teams invited to compete are those with the best recorded practice flights. As in past years, Green Vale team members will be among the youngest delegates, most of whom are in high school.
This year’s contest is themed around the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and challenges students to design, build, and fly a rocket carrying three raw eggs in a capsule to an altitude of 856 feet and return it to ground with the eggs intact within 43-46 seconds.
There is another 50th Anniversary to celebrate this weekend: GVS rocketry coach Peter Zaloom marks 50 years as a science teacher at The Green Vale School and will kick off his retirement in June. For the most recent 15 of those years, he has run the School's rocket program for 4th-8th Grades. In the early years, recalls Zaloom, "We didn't keep meticulous flight data. We thought a flight was ok if we were 30 feet off." But after 5 years, Zaloom's students made TARC finals for the first time when Stark Johnson '12 led a team with two scores of 13 which placed them 6th nationally. The next year, a team lead by Harry Gahagan '13 took 7th place. He has led Green Vale student teams to nationals every year since 2008.
This group donated their prize money to a team from Presidio, Texas which struggled to afford supplies for test flights. A close rapport between the two rocket teams continued, with Skype sessions during the school year to compare notes on successes and challenges, which for the Texas students included rattlesnakes!
Additionally, in 2018, one of the GVS teams won an award for "Most Creative Rocket Design" that came with a plaque and $500 prize.
As Mr. Zaloom leaves to spend more time in Florida with his horses, plants and family, Rich Meyer who has been assisting GVS rocketry this year will take over the program. He joins us from Oceans Wide, an organization that pairs students with scientists which has partnered with Green Vale's marine science program.
The Team America Rocketry Challenge is the world’s largest student rocket contest and a key piece of the aerospace and defense industry’s strategy to build a stronger U.S. workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It is sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). The contest’s rules and scoring parameters change every cycle to challenge the students’ ingenuity and encourage a fresh approach to rocket design.