Kids Celebrate Winning the Reach for the Stars National Rocket Competition
Student winners in the fifth annual Reach for the Stars National Rocket Competition recently celebrated their victories. The event challenged them to build and launch their own solid fuel-powered rocket, and across the U.S., competitions were held in local schools, scouts, youth groups and Challenger Learning Centers. Winners in the local competitions were determined by the closest average landing by parachute to a target after two launches. Local winner's results were submitted to the national competition for result tabulation.
In response to the nation's call for more interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) activities, kids across the nation participated in this rocket competition. At the end of the competition, those who had the "Right Stuff"* were victorious! This annual event runs continuously and is open to ages ten to adult.
Of the six national winners there were three Girl Scouts: Nicole Frese, Mari Hernandez and Jo'nae McCullough, along with one Boy Scout, Collin Warner. Also scoring top honors were students Marc Kolling and Mackie Tygart, who competed with their classes at school. In a competition that fosters the memory of the First Teacher in Space, Christa McAuliffe, it is fitting that Girl Scouts would win, as Christa is considered to be a life long Girl Scout. All national winners received a Space Shuttle Challenger Commemorative Coin with an insert signed by Christa's mother, Grace Corrigan.
Three of the winners, Marc Kolling, Jo'nae McCullough, Mari Hernandez received trophies and launched their rockets at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Along with their families they continued the celebration by visiting the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. There they received their Challenger Commemorative Coins from Astronaut Jon McBride, who piloted the Challenger STS-41-G in 1984. Afterward they experienced the thrill of riding the Shuttle Launch Experience with Astronaut McBride.
The other national winners, Collin Warner and Nicole Frese, celebrated with their families at the October Sky Festival in Coalwood, West Virginia. They received their trophies from famed author Homer Hickam, who wrote The Rocket Boys (October Sky). With the original Rocket Boys giving the countdown, Collin and Nicole launched their rockets near the Challenger Memorial. Also honored for their involvement in Helping Kids Reach for the Stars (and celebrating with a launch of their own) were Lori Bradner and George Bartuska, teachers at the Central Florida Aerospace Academy. According to Competition Director Jack Colpas, launching their rockets from a historic location is an important part of the celebration for the national winners, giving them, "memories to last a lifetime and bragging rights for generations to come."
The Coalwood Restoration Association, author Homer Hickam, original Rocket Boys Jimmy "O'Dell" Carroll, Roy Lee Cooke and Billy Rose, as well as Astronaut Jon McBride, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame STAFF, the Delaware North Corporation-Parks & Resorts at KSC Visitor Complex and the Hampton Inn of Coca Beach, all played a big part in making the national winners' celebrations a really special event.
Retired public school educators Jack and Kathy Colpas are the co-directors of the Helping Kids Reach for the Stars model rocketry program and the Reach for the Stars National Rocket Competition. The goal of the program is to give kids the unique educational experience of building and launching a solid fuel-powered rocket. The mission is to keep alive the memory of the first Teacher-in-Space, Christa McAuliffe, and the program is designated as an Educational Outreach of the Christa McAuliffe Challenger Learning Center. For details, go to TheRocketman.net.
*Thomas Wolfe, The Right Stuff - (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 1979