Amity Rocketry team shoots for the stars

A team of five students from Amity Senior High School has entered the national Team America Rocketry Challenge. This contest requires high school students to design, build, and fly a two stage model rocket that safely carries two raw eggs to exactly 1,500 feet and returns them to the ground uncracked.

Out of 875 teams that have entered, the 100 teams that come closest to the target altitude in local qualifying tests are invited to the national fly-off held in Virginia in May.

The five local students, Toby Schneider (Woodbridge), Nicole Giannini (Bethany), Dany Qumsiyeh (Orange), Nick Santucci (Woodbridge), and Colin Theys (Woodbridge), are honor students in their senior year, as well as members of the Amity High School's Rocket Club. Their contest rocket, named the "ATA-1 Von Braun" in honor of the famous rocketeer and designer of the Saturn V moon rocket, was designed and built from scratch last fall.

The teams test flew the rocket on Dec. 8 in eastern Connecticut at a launch held by a Connecticut high power rocket club, CATO. The "Von Braun" achieved an altitude of 1,160 feet on a systems trial flight (not intended to reach target altitude), and 1,615 feet on a maximum altitude flight. The students returned to CATO on Sunday, Jan. 19, and obtained altitudes of 1,435 feet and 1,515 feet. The 1,515 foot flight gives the team an excellent chance for the nationals.

If the Amity group qualifies for the national fly-off, they will have a chance to compete for $59,000 in prizes. Guests at the finals will include NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe and NASA engineer and author, Homer Hickam, whose book inspired the movie October Sky. Jay Apt, a NASA astronaut who flew four times as a mission specialist on the space shuttle, has agreed to be one of the two range safety officers for the competition.

The contest is sponsored by the National Association of Rocketry and the Aerospace Industries Association to celebrate the centennial of flight. The Amity team's rocket was funded by a generous contribution from the local law firm of Tyler, Cooper, and Alcorn LLP, and by several student activities funds from Amity High School.