Presidio on its way to national rocketry competition

Two teams with six members each from Presidio High School are among 100 national finalists in the American Rocketry Challenge.

The students will compete against other teams at the National Finals, taking place on May 14 in The Plains, Va., not far from Washington, D.C.

In addition to competing for the title of national champion and an all-expense paid trip to London for the international finals, teams will be competing for $100,000 in prizes. The top 25 teams will automatically receive invitations to NASA’s Student Launch workshop, a news release said.

Presidio HS’s rocket teams have qualified for the National Finals in every year they’ve occurred since 2009. They are advised by Luzviminda Santo Domingo.

The contest involves more than 4,000 students from 41 states, and more than 720 teams submitting scores. This year’s rules require teams to design, build and launch a model rocket that safely carries two raw eggs to a target altitude of 835 feet, with a target flight duration of 41-44 seconds.

Sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Association of Rocketry, and more than 20 industry partners, the American Rocketry Challenge is the aerospace and defense industry’s flagship program designed to encourage students to pursue study and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Now in its 20th year, the competition has inspired more than 85,000 middle and high school students to explore education and careers in STEM fields.

Student Ramon Rodriguez said the secret to the team’s success is teamwork and mentors who share their knowledge.

“The experience of building rockets, it really is a process. Each one has their own skill,” Rodriguez said.

“… You have to be as perfect as you can for these competitions.”

Santo Domingo said they will bring two rockets.

Shiela Condino in Vienna, Va., was the former teacher sponsor for Presidio rocketry.

Condino thanked Santo Domingo for taking on the “huge legacy” of Presidio rocketry.

She said there are 600 to 800 teams nationwide year after year that compete in the national rocketry competition. They conduct practice launches on their home turf.

“Then from there, an observer from the National Association of Rocketry, which are officials, would actually do the qualifications, do the observation and scoring so only the top 100 teams in the nation will be invited to the national finals. These teams of presidio rocketry actually made the top 100 again,” Condino said.

“Since they are going to become national finalists, then they go to Northern, Virginia, at the Plains in the Great Meadows and compete for the prize. They only have one opportunity to launch. If they finish top 42 then they can have a second opportunity to launch for the prize money. … Whoever finishes in the top 25 would have the opportunity to submit or propose a research proposal to NASA and the top 10 will have the chance to get some prize money. If you finish first, you get the chance to compete and represent the United States in the international competition, which will be held in London this year …,” Condino said.

The team in 2012 got to meet President Obama. Condino said this has served as an inspiration ever since.