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Ready, Set, Launch: Copley High School Students Soar to The American Rocketry Challenge

Three ambitious Copley seniors had a curiosity that could not be contained. Their desire to explore and build led them to join the Engineering Club. The group participated in the Modern Egg Drop Competition and several other competitions, including the Make Able Challenge, in which they were challenged to make a difference in the life of a disabled member of their community. The group designed and created a 3D printable pill bottle for a man with Parkinson’s Disease. 

The group made the decision to switch gears and focus on rocketry when they discovered the American Rocketry Challenge. They began researching materials, testing designs, and brainstorming ideas to create the best possible rocket for launch day. The American Rocket Club’s challenge requires teams to design, build, fabricate and test their rocket in order to compete. While many teams buy and use pre-made rocket parts, the Copley team has an advantage as they design and create each part themselves using a 3D printer. This allows the team to print extra pieces, so if something breaks during a competition, they can replace the part on the spot and continue with the competition. 

To help finance their project, the team has been very creative in seeking sponsorships and raising funds - from selling homemade cookies to setting up a Go Fund Me account. This rigorous fundraising process is necessary, as the required reloadable rocket motors cost around $30 each and work for only one launch. Marketing is an important part of this process as the team is required to create a video explaining the rocket creation process, for which a monetary prize is given. The prize money would go back to Copley High School. 

The team is made up of seniors Tanner Kimmins ‘23 (responsible for marketing), Drew Floyd ‘23 (responsible for designing the launcher), Ayden Stuckey ‘23 (responsible for construction of the nose coat or very top), Libby Blanchard ‘23 (responsible for construction of the rockets), Samantha McMannes ‘23 (responsible for marketing), and Advisor, Kirby Harder. 

Harder, who has 28 years of experience, teaches Mechanical Engineering, Marketing and Business, and information systems, says, “I am glad to see the students’ interest come alive in a project such as this. I am just here to help them troubleshoot. It is important to note that they have created each and every piece of this rocket themselves. With this commitment to success, I can’t wait to see the amazing results the team produces!​” 

Each of the five students on the team plays a specific role. From constructing the rocket parts to creating a marketing plan, each participant is given an opportunity to express themselves and be heard. As Drew stated, “Don’t be afraid of discourse in the group - being able to work it out and find a solution is part of the journey.”

The American Rocketry Challenge will be held on April 4 and is the world's largest rocket contest, with nearly 5,000 students nationwide competing each year. There are three parts to the competition; creating a marketing plan, building and launching the rocket, and then the team’s technical presentation of the process. Qualifiers from Ohio will move on to the finals in Virginia this spring. 

“The sense of accomplishment as a team is invigorating,” says Libby Blanchard ‘23 . “We look forward to the competition and seeing the results of our determination and hard work.”

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