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PC Elite Rocketry Team gears up for TARC qualifier

By Nicole Burns for the FCT


If someone were to walk into Jonathan Grimes’ fifth period class at Phil Campbell High School on any given day, they might just think it was a normal group of students.

This, however, is no ordinary class, and these are no ordinary high-schoolers. A PCHS math teacher, Grimes is teaching up-and-coming rocket scientists, and this group is preparing for the upcoming Team America Rocketry Challenge at UNA.

“We’ve got to get the launch pad and the launch controller ready, and then we’ll we fire a few rockets,” said Grimes. “After we know what we’re doing on building the rocket, we’ll start assembling our competition rocket.”

Eighth grader Ben Williams, is the CEO of the PC Elite Rocketry and Robotics Team. He said the team has a clear-cut plan. “We want to go to 850 feet and then come down between 44-46 seconds,” said Williams. “We hope we design it well enough so that it doesn’t shatter the eggs inside.”

Before the team can get a rocket off the ground, Grimes said the team members must first learn a few hard but vital life lessons.

“We’re learning that you’ve got to be precise with everything,” said eighth grader Emily Riner.

“We’re learning that it takes patience,” said eighth grader Trenton McCulloch.

To teach patience, Grimes had each student build a bridge using file-folders and wood glue. “The paper bridges were all about a lesson in patience,” said Grimes. “With the rockets, going through the parts list and everything, it’s expensive. You don’t want to go through and just halfway do it and mess up. With the bridge, they had specific instructions to follow. If they messed up with any one part, it delayed them. It wasn’t expensive, but it was a delay.”

The team is using rocket simulation software to help fine-tune their specs on what will help get their rocket off the ground, but that it doesn’t give them as clear of a picture as they hoped. “You can tell how far up it goes and what your max height will be and how long it took to get from point A launch to point B landing. The software, however, cannot tell us whether the eggs break or not,” said Grimes.

The team has less than two months to get the rockets tested and ready for the TARC competition in March at UNA. Whether they move on in the competition or not, the team has already gained a hunger to create new things. “I want to be on next year’s team too because I really do want to be an engineer,” said McCulloch.